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Multiple medications increase the chances of harmful interactions

One reason people are living longer than ever is that medications are available to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and a host of other conditions that killed many of our ancestors before they reached what we now consider the "senior years."

That's the good news. The bad news is that by taking multiple prescription meds, the chances of an adverse and possibly dangerous interaction increase. About a third of all adults take at least five medications.

Doctors have an obligation to know what medications a patient is taking (including supplements) before they prescribe another one. That's why they ask you (or should ask you) to list all of them, along with the dosage, whenever you visit.

When doctors prescribe a drug for anxiety, depression or another psychological issue, they're also required to check with the patient before renewing the prescription to make sure they're not experiencing any negative side effects. Ironically, drugs that are designed to make people feel better can lead to suicidal thoughts in others. Some of these medications, along with pain meds, can also be highly addictive.

Patients can help prevent harmful drug interactions. For example:

  • Provide each of your doctors with a complete list of all prescription and non-prescription medications and supplements and dosages.
  • If you're getting a prescription refilled, make sure the medication the pharmacy gives you is what's been prescribed. Also, make sure the medication matches the description of it on the label.
  • Pay careful attention to the dosage and adhere to it. If you miss a dose, don't just double up the next day.
  • Read the instructions and warnings on all medications carefully. Some need to be taken with food, while others are supposed to be taken on an empty stomach.
  • If you're taking multiple medications, find out if they can be taken simultaneously or need to be spread out throughout the day. Don't just swallow all of your meds in the morning to be done with them unless you've checked with your doctor.

Unfortunately, doctors can still make mistakes. If you or a loved one has suffered harm because of a prescribed drug or its interaction with other medication, could and should your doctor have prevented it? If so, you might be able to hold them liable. It may be wise to seek legal guidance.

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