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Where can I look up drug interactions?

Consumer Reports News: June 14, 2013 10:08 AM

Several drug interaction checkers are available online that can help you determine if your prescription drugs may interact with each other, as well as over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, dietary supplements, food, and alcoholic beverages. See below for a few which don't require you to sign up or divulge any personal details.

Interaction checkers can help prevent adverse events, so our medical advisors recommend using one before you take a new medication. "It's really important for consumers to use an interaction checker whenever they get a new prescription," says Michael R. Cohen, R.Ph., and president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, based in Horsham, Pennsylvania. "Maybe the doctor forgot, or may not be aware of, another medication that you take, and the pharmacist may let an interaction go by, depending on how their alerts system is set up. If consumers aren't checking on their own, it just increases the risk of an adverse reaction."

Many online drug interaction checkers rank the severity level of possible interactions, so you'll know whether your risk of an adverse reaction is great or small. Some tools are more detailed than others, requiring you to enter the dosage or amount that you're taking, while others simply list the drug's name. They're available from a variety of sources, including nonprofits, trade organizations, medical companies, and commercial websites.

If you discover, with the help of an online checker, that two of your medications could interact, tell your doctor and pharmacist immediately, rather than stopping therapy on your own. "Some people will think, 'Oh, I'd better stop taking this,'" Cohen says. "But I would not stop taking it without talking to a pharmacist or physician about what you need to do."

Even if you rely on an online checker, it's still important to ask your pharmacist about drug interactions whenever you pick up a new prescription. Be sure to mention any vitamins, dietary supplements, or herbal products that you take, which many people forget about. "A great question to ask is, 'Should I expect any drug interactions, side effects, or adverse reactions before I go home with this medication?'" Cohen says. "A check must be made when you're getting a new medication."

Online drug interaction checkers:
-Norton Healthcare
-WebMD's Medscape

Lisa Fields

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