February 17, 2019
Prescription drugs.

Reduce Your Risk of Bad Drug Reactions

by Health After 50  

If you’re taking more than one prescription drug, you can take steps to reduce your risk of dangerous interactions or side effects. The more you know about your medications, the less likely you’ll suffer preventable side effects and the more likely you’ll be able to recognize them. The American Geriatrics Society offers the following suggestions:

  • When you’re prescribed a new drug, ask your doctor or pharmacist for specific instructions on the best way to take the drug—with or without food, for example—or whether the prescription drug could interact harmfully with any over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, or alcoholic beverages. Take your medications only as directed.
  • Keep an updated list of your medications, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, supplements such as vitamins and minerals, and herbal remedies.
  • Show your medication list to your doctor at every visit so he or she can prescribe medicine that won’t interact with anything you’re taking.
  • Ask your doctor about the drugs you’re taking and what kinds of adverse effects to watch for.
  • If you suspect you’re having a bad reaction to a drug, contact your doctor right away. If the symptoms are potentially life threatening, call 911.
  • When you go to the pharmacy to pick up a new prescription and the pharmacist asks, “Do you have any questions?” respond by asking, “How safe is the medication and what should I watch out for?”
  • If you’re concerned that a drug you’re taking is either not working or not necessary, talk with your doctor. Don’t stop taking the medication without consulting your doctor first.

This article first appeared in the May 2018 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.