Take care not to mix medicines: health body

Take care not to mix medicines: health body

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Taking multiple medicines? You might be at risk of an unintentional mix-up.

Taking multiple medicines? You might be at risk of an unintentional mix-up.


NPS MedicineWise is warning people about the dangers of unintentionally mixing medicines.


MEDICINE misuse can happen to anyone - especially those taking multiple medications.

NPS MedicineWise is warning people about the dangers of unintentionally mixing medicines.

While many medicines work well together to treat an illness, other combinations can cause interactions that lead to unwanted side effects or block the effects of a medication.

NPS Medicines Line pharmacist and manager Sarah Spagnardi said it's important to understand when you can and can't mix medicines.

"There are risks associated with taking particular medicines at the same time, mixing some over-the-counter products with prescription medicines, and taking medicines with alcohol so it's important to check if these are safe to take together," she said.

Older people, those with chronic illnesses taking multiple medicines, and young children are more likely to experience interactions, but they can potentially happen to anybody who takes a combination of medicines.

"An interaction might mean too much of one medicine is absorbed or it could result in a medicine being ineffective," said Ms Spagnardi.

"For example, some over-the-counter medicines that treat gastric reflux (heartburn) can interact with medicines for other conditions, including antibiotics, blood thinners and heart medicines, and stop them from being absorbed and working effectively."

Alcohol can also interact badly with medication.

A new survey conducted for Be Medicinewise Week found almost one in three Australians admit to consuming alcohol shortly after taking prescription pain relief medicines.

"This is a concerning statistic as alcohol can increase the effect of medicines that relax or sedate the body, such as sleeping and travel sickness tablets, cough and cold preparations, anti-anxiety tablets and antidepressants. The result of this interaction can be increased drowsiness and dizziness."

Avoiding interactions

There are simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of medicine interactions:

1. Make sure that all your healthcare professionals know all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and any vitamins or herbal supplements. Keeping a Medicines List will help you remember all the medicines you are taking.

2. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist the following questions before taking a new medicine:

  • Can I take it with the other medicines I am taking?
  • Should I avoid certain foods, beverages or other products?
  • What are possible drug interaction signs I should know about?

3. Watch out for unexpected symptoms in the first few days after your medicines change in any way.

4. Check the information provided for your medicines. This includes over-the-counter products. You can find a list of known interactions in the consumer medicine information (CMI) for your particular medicine, under the heading 'Taking other medicines'. Use the NPS MedicineWise Medicine Finder to find the CMIs for your medicines. Labelling may change as new information is learned about medicines, so it's important to review the CMI frequently.

5. Don't stop medicines without advice. Stopping your prescribed medicines (and even a few over-the-counter medicines) without speaking to a health professional can have serious effects on your health. If in doubt about stopping an over-the-counter medicine, ask a pharmacist for advice. Some medicines may need to be gradually decreased before stopping to prevent serious effects on your health.

6. Never take someone else's medicines. Taking a medicine that was prescribed for someone else or bought on the Internet can be dangerous, and lead to unexpected drug interactions.