Most of us have taken medication at some point in our lives, which also means we’ve likely dealt with a medication interaction. Luckily, managing medication interactions doesn’t have to be complicated. “Drug interactions actually happen quite frequently and can be managed,” says Jeannie Lee, Pharmacist with TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacy. Being aware of these interactions and taking your medications the right way can help ensure you get the most by putting you on the right track to improved health and wellbeing.
Put a plan in place before taking your medications
Some common daily practices we may not think about have the potential to impact our medications. While our morning cup of coffee is the pick-me-up many of us turn to, it contains chemicals called tannins that bind to your medication, which may affect how your body absorbs certain drugs. Lee says, “depending on your condition and medication, you could possibly still have your morning cup of coffee or juice, but your pharmacist may recommend, for example, that you plan around it by avoiding coffee one hour before and two hours after taking your medication.
If coffee isn't your thing and you prefer a glass of juice in the morning, beware that grapefruit juice can also affect the absorption of certain medications. Be sure to ask your pharmacist about how it may affect your current prescription. For example, in some circumstances, your pharmacist may recommend you to switch to a fresh glass of orange juice instead of grapefruit juice, as orange juice helps create extra acid which improves the absorption of calcium carbonate or of iron supplements.
These are just a few common examples Lee highlights, but she says the real key lies in the importance of following the recommendations of your pharmacist about taking medications with food or on an empty stomach.
Home medicine cabinet interactions
Beyond the kitchen, Lee says people often overlook dangers lurking in their home medicine cabinets, especially regarding the use of aspirin and ibuprofen. She points out that a lot of people take a low dosage of aspirin for its potential cardioprotective effects but cautions that when mixed with ibuprofen for pain relief, those cardioprotective benefits may be reduced.
To avoid common cases like this, Lee recommends either visiting your local pharmacy or using an app such as the Virtual Pharmacy app if you have additional questions about certain medications you are taking. While the app provides valuable information, the important step here is to be open with your pharmacist about all the medications you are currently taking so they can advise you on the best possible timing of when to take each of them.
Timing for your medication
While following instructions and making sure your body is ready to properly absorb your medication is important, the time-of-day medications are consumed should be considered.
If possible, Lee generally recommends that diuretic drugs be taken early in the morning, as it may have you getting up at night to use the bathroom if taken too late in the day – and no one wants to lose any sleep over that. Conversely, medications that may cause drowsiness should in general be taken closer to bedtime, so the risk of dizziness during the day is reduced.
What if you work nights? Lee suggests you ask your pharmacist if and how you could shift your medication intake by 12 hours to account for the change in your schedule and sleep cycle.
What if you’re travelling to a different time zone? In that case, Lee says you may need to adjust your medication intake to the new time zone and to always ensure that you do not take more than you are prescribed for any 24-hour period. Talking to your pharmacist will help you make the necessary and appropriate adjustments.
Finally, as you prepare to take your medication, if there’s any physical activity in your schedule, you’ll need to manage when to take your medications. Lee says certain medications should be taken after physical activity if possible, so you don’t negatively impact your performance & cause injuries. Your pharmacist can help you identify those medications.
Bottom line, whatever fills your days, from work to hobbies, your pharmacist could help you manage your medications, and how they may interact, and could help you come up with a well-planned schedule that fits your individual needs.
Managing your medication and a busy schedule
Life is busy, so at times you may accidentally take two incompatible medications or miss the signs that they aren’t compatible. Should this happen or if you have any doubts, Lee suggests you connect with your pharmacist immediately for advice.
Missed doses are another potential side effect of life on the go. “It happens more often than you think,” says Lee. “If and when it does, take your medication as soon as you remember, but if it’s time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and just take the next one at the normal time. But, whatever happens, do not take two doses at the same time.”
“Alarms are a great way to remind yourself it’s time to take your medication,” says Lee, “and if you’re taking multiple medications, I recommend pill organizers, bubble packs, or medication strips.” Finally, she reminds us that MedPack by TELUS Health is another great way to track and organize your medication intake and interactions, as the time of day to take each pill is printed on the pack.
Plan and prepare for a healthier future
While the importance of taking your medications the right way at the right time cannot be stressed enough, it’s important to remember that medication interactions, while common, could be managed by discussing with your pharmacist who mayhelp you put in place a schedule. The good news is you always have a helping hand in your pharmacist at your fingertips and the additional resources with TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacy.
Finally, remember, self-care is not selfish, and is an important step in creating a healthier future.
This article may contain general information relating to medication interactions, medical conditions, and their treatments. It is NOT intended to be a comprehensive reference and as such, it does NOT provide detailed explanations of mechanisms of action, descriptions of all drug indications, or an in-depth review of all possible adverse effects or drug interactions. The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for advice provided by your pharmacist, doctor, or other healthcare professionals. Patients should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing a health or fitness problem or disease or to make decisions about their care. Patients should always consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional for medical advice or information about potential medication interactions, diagnosis, or treatment.
TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacy operates in Ontario and in British Columbia under the name TELUS Health Virtual Pharmacy and in Manitoba under the name TELUS Health Pharmacy. This service is currently unavailable in Quebec.