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Spring 2004

Exercise Caution When Taking Multiple Medications

With the dramatic growth in numbers of medications available to improve the lives of people with chronic medical conditions, the need to manage multiple prescriptions becomes more challenging.

“Many older patients with chronic medical conditions may be taking 10 or more medications,” says Michelle Bholat, M.D., M.P.H., UCLA family physician. “Issues of medication cost, when and how to medicate, and the manner in which new medications might interact with existing ones are significant, and need to be addressed.”

Unwanted drug interactions can take several forms: one medication might reduce, increase, or neutralize the effects of another—or two drugs together could cause a reaction (potentially dangerous) that neither would produce alone.

Thus, people on multiple medications must ensure that their prescribing physicians are aware of all medications being taken—including any overthe- counter, complementary and alternative medicines, and supplements. When seeing a new physician or when hospitalized, inform all healthcare providers about your medication regimens and allergies. Pharmacists also help to steer patients away from potentially adverse drug combinations; Dr. Bholat recommends that patients stick with one pharmacy so that their medications can be tracked in a single database.

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