Dangerous Drug Combinations Cause Thousands of Injuries Every YearDec 19, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
Dangerous Drug combinations are putting many people at risk, a fact few realize. As Americans take more and more medications for everything from upset stomachs to depression, drug clashes have fueled a new epidemic of unexpected, sometimes dangerous side effects and complications. One recent study suggested that at least 1.3 million Americans have prescriptions for drugs that could cause problems if taken together—and that only counts people with health insurance. Although the overall toll is unknown, it's undoubtedly huge, experts say. And growing. Taking many medications at the same time, or large doses of a few, can result in a conflict according to Marietta Anthony, PhD, associate director of the Center for Education Research and Therapeutics at the University of Arizona. Common items like drugstore pain relievers can clash with other meds.
SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can conflict with a triptan drug used to treat migraines because triptans and SSRIs both increase serotonin levels and too much serotonin can cause serotonin syndrome resulting in mania, increased heart rate, seizures, and death. Chronic use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause bleeding ulcers and other stomach troubles. Adding an SSRI increases this risk since serotonin encourages blood platelets to stick together, but because platelets soak up less serotonin when one is on an SSRI, they may have trouble clumping together to form clots and prevent excessive bleeding.
Blood pressure medication can conflict with chronic NSAID use as they can prevent blood pressure medications from doing their job. These drugs work by ridding the body of extra salt or water or by shutting off production of a hormone that prompts blood vessels to narrow. If taken regularly, NSAIDs can block these actions.
Quinolone antibiotics used to treat a urinary tract infection and traveler's diarrhea can conflict with over-the-counter (OTC) antacids containing calcium, magnesium, or aluminum as the antibiotics attract to the metals rendering them less effective.
Cholesterol drugs have possible conflicts with Macrolide antibiotics and oral antifungals. Some antibiotics and antifungals can block enzymes that help break down cholesterol drugs leaving patients with 4-10 times more cholesterol medication than intended and enough to greatly increase the risk of muscle or kidney damage.
A corticosteroid can conflict with antibiotics, antifungals, antidepressants, and a blood pressure calcium channel blocker. Oral and inhaled corticosteroids depend on enzymes to break the drug down; recent studies suggest a number of other medicines can block the action of these enzymes, leading to a corticosteroid overdose and causing Cushing's Syndrome.
OTC stimulant laxatives can conflict with blood pressure medications, anti-seizure drugs, antibiotics, blood thinners, and heart medication as many medications need time to be absorbed and stimulant laxatives can rush them through the system resulting with improper absorption.
Blood thinners can conflict with NSAIDs, antibiotics or quinolone antibiotics, and anti-seizure drugs. Some of these meds multiply the effects of the blood thinner, greatly increasing the risk of uncontrolled internal bleeding because NSAIDs keep platelets from sticking together. Certain antibiotics slow the enzyme that breaks down the blood thinner, raising the risk of increased bleeding. Also, anti-seizure drugs can speed the breakdown of blood thinners causing blood to thicken and clot dangerously.