Here’s a question: the last time you saw the doctor or pharmacist, were you able to tell them about all the prescription drugs you are currently taking? What about over-the-counter medications? Supplements? When you start to think about it, the list can be long and it’s easy to leave something out.

 

And that’s a problem. In fact, every year in British Columbia, the Drug and Poison Information Centre receives 26,000 calls1 about poisoning. Many of these cases can be resolved over the phone, but almost 4,000 drug poisoning cases2 require hospitalization and approximately 500 are fatal.3 Further, ¼ of these serious cases affect adults aged 55 and over.2,3

 

Many adults over the age of 55, especially those with chronic health conditions, have multiple prescriptions. A recent poll conducted by Insights West on behalf of London Drugs found that one third (34%) of Canadians aged 55 or older are not taking their prescription medications properly, and one in five say that they have trouble remembering when or if they have taken a medication.4

 

Taken as directed, these drugs are typically safe. However, issues could arise if we mix medications without a second thought. Different chemical compounds can sometimes interact with each other, or even with certain foods and drinks. These interactions could lead to poisoning, and cause serious illness and injury.

 

This April, Preventable is partnering with London Drugs and Fraser Health Hospital Foundations to remind British Columbians about the importance of approaching multiple medications with caution – even over the counter drugs.

 

One of the most effective measures against mixing medications is to carry a list of all the prescription medications you take, as well as any over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, minerals and herbal products.

 

Your doctor or pharmacist can review the list with you and make sure there are no dangerous interactions. Ask your doctor and pharmacist questions: what is the name of this drug? What is it for? Why am I taking it?

 

Unclear about how your medications might interact with each other? Don’t assume everything will be OK—ask your pharmacist and be sure.

 

Download this free card or pick one up at a participating London Drugs store and keep it in your wallet for your next visit.

 

References:

  1. British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre. British Columbia Poison Control Centre Fact Sheet. Available from: http://www.dpic.org/bc-dpic-fact-sheets/british-columbia-poison-control-centre-fact-sheet
  2. Unintentional poisoning by drugs, Self harm by drugs, all years, all ages. Discharge Abstract Database (DAD), Ministry of Health, BCIRPU Injury Data Online Tool, 2018. Available from: http://data.injuryresearch.bc.ca/DataTools/hospitalization.aspx
  3. BC Vital Statistics, Ministry of Health, BCIRPU Injury Data Online Tool, 2017.
  4. Results are based on an online study conducted by InsightsWest on behalf of London Drugs from February 13th to 28th, 2019 among a representative sample of 633 English speaking Canadian adults aged 55 years or older. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.81 percentage points. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Available from: https://blog.londondrugs.com/reducing-preventable-overdoses-and-dangerous-drug-interactions