Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month

Pills on Counter
Image Source: Gesina Kunkel/Unsplash

July is Herbal/Prescription Interaction Awareness Month. A common misconception with herbal supplements is that because they are “all-natural” it is safe to take. This is especially true for people who may be taking prescription medications. The main purpose of the public health and awareness campaign is to inform the public that herbal supplements can cause potentially dangerous drug interactions when taken with certain medications.

Are Herbal Supplements Safe?1

While herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA as drugs or as foods, they do fall under a category called dietary supplements. It is important to note that the level of regulation and criteria for dietary supplements is not as stringent as it is for food and drug products. The dietary supplement regulations ensure that herbal supplements meet certain quality standards and that the FDA can intervene to remove dangerous products from the market. However, these products can pose unexpected risks because many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong effects in the body. For example, taking a combination of herbal supplements or using supplements together with prescribed medications could lead to harmful, even life-threatening results.

How Herbs Can Interact with Medicines?2

Unfortunately, for many medicines and supplements there’s currently little information on possible interactions, and more research is needed. Some supplements can decrease the effects of medicines, while others can increase the effects, including unwanted side effects, of medicines. Here are a few examples of well-known drug interactions:

  • St. John’s Wort: St. John’s wort interacts with a large number of medications, including antidepressants, allergy drugs, birth control, and warfarin. In most cases, St. John’s wort decreases the effectiveness of the medication; in other cases, however, St. John’s wort may increase the effects of a medication.3
  • Garlic Extract: Concentrated garlic extracts can thin the blood in a manner similar to aspirin, which may be a problem during or after surgery.
  • Green Tea Supplements: Concentrated green tea supplements can interact with pseudoephedrine (a decongestant).

Herbal Supplement Safety Tips

  • If you’re currently taking prescription medications and thinking about starting an herbal supplement, always talk to your doctor or pharmacist first about possible drug interactions.
  • Follow supplement instructions
  • Stick to brands that have been tested by independent sources
  • Keep track of any alerts or advisories. The FDA will notify the public of any supplements that have been reported to cause adverse effects or contain undeclared ingredients.

Tria Health can help

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities!

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/herbal-supplements/art-20046714
  2. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/herb-drug
  3. https://www.stlukes-stl.com/health-content/medicine/33/000931.htm

Drug Interactions – Be Prepared & Stay Aware

Man pouring out one pill from bottle
Image Source: rawpixel/Unsplash

Are you currently taking a prescription medication? Per the government’s National Health Survey, about 20 percent of adults are taking three or more drugs. While most patients are aware of potential side effects with prescription medication, it’s important to be aware of combining certain drugs and other substances. Being aware of drug interactions can help prevent serious side effects and help ensure medication effectiveness.  

 What Factors Impact Interactions?1

Unfortunately, it is hard to predicts all drug interactions and you won’t always know how you’ll react to a certain medication. The likelihood of interaction causing problems can depend on several factors including:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Lifestyle (Diet & Exercise)
  • Other medical conditions
  • The length of time both drugs are taken

Types of Drug Interactions

  • Drug-Drug: There are a multitude of side effects that can occur from drug-drug interactions as there are so many possible drug combinations. Drug-drug interactions can lead to a prescription medication losing effectiveness, allowing for a disease-state to go unmanaged or it can lead to dangerous side effects like heart damage or death.
  • Drug-Food/Beverage: Certain foods can affect the medications you take but medicine can also affect how your body digests and processes food.
  • Drug-Supplement: A common misconception with supplements is just because they’re natural, doesn’t mean they’re safe. Supplements can change how the body absorbs, metabolizes or excretes drugs and influence how potent the drug is in the system.

Simple steps to avoid drug interactions

  • Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about any new medications. Make sure they know about any vitamins and supplements you are currently taking.
  • Follow all the dosing instructions listed on each of your medications.
  • Keep an updated medication list on hand for any of your medical appointments.
  • You can also use AARP’s online drug interaction checker

Tria Health can help

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities!

Source:

  1. https://www.drugwatch.com/health/drug-interactions/

Taking Multiple Medications Can Put You at Risk for Drug Interactions

Older man holding white pills
Image Source: iStock.com/Neustockimages

Taking multiple medications can be overwhelming. Some medications need to be taken with food while others need to be taken in the evening. It can become ever more complex with the fear of drug interactions involved. While most interactions are usually not life-threatening, some mixtures of medications can lead to serious – and even fatal – consequences.1 It’s important to talk with your doctor and pharmacist about your current medication regimen to help avoid any possible reactions.

The more medications you take, the higher the risk

The more medications a patient takes, the higher the risk that drugs will interact with each other. According to drugwatch.com, the drug-interaction risks are:

Drug Interactions_drugwatch.com.png2

A recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago also concluded that children taking multiple medications are also at risk for drug interactions. “Among those using multiple medications, one in 12 was at risk for a major drug interaction, and the vast majority of these potential interactions involved antidepressants.”3

Drug Interaction Types

There are four main types of drug interactions:

  1. Drug-Drug Interactions
  2. Drug-Food/Beverage Interactions
  3. Drug-Condition Interactions
  4. Drug-Supplement Interactions

Simple steps to avoid drug interactions

  • Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about any new medications. Make sure they know about any vitamins and supplements you are currently taking.
  • Follow all the dosing instructions listed on each of your medications.
  • Keep an updated medication list on hand for any of your medical appointments.
  • You can also use AARP’s online drug interaction checker

Tria Health can help

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities!

 

Have any questions for us?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

 

Source:

  1. https://www.drugs.com/article/preventing-drug-interactions.html
  2. https://www.drugwatch.com/health/drug-interactions/
  3. University of Illinois at Chicago Study

Saving money on prescriptions is great, but there are health risks.

Pills spilled over money
Image Source: iStock.com/Creativeye99

We all like saving money, but is it worth saving a buck if it puts your health at risk?

Today, more than ever, we are seeing an increase in the number of High Deductible Health Plans. These plans position consumers to assume more of their healthcare costs—especially the cost of their prescription drugs, until their deductible is met.

For this reason, we’re seeing more patients seeking lower-costing alternatives outside of their insurance plan, such as $4 generics or the use of copay coupons.

The New York Times reports that up to 10 percent of drug transactions – or 400 million prescriptions each year – could fall into this category. Don’t misunderstand, paying a Lower price is always appealing, but there are risks consumers need to understand.

Let’s look at an example:

Let’s say you normally fill all your prescriptions at one pharmacy, but decide to go to another pharmacy to take advantage of a lower price without using your insurance. The pharmacist won’t have access to other medications you are taking and won’t be able to assist you in identifying potentially dangerous drug interactions.

The Tria Health clinical team sees this situation happening too often. This also applies when patients are taking drug samples from their doctor.

At Tria Health, our pharmacists are consulting with patients about ALL their medications. By talking individually with patients, the Tria pharmacist can confirm claims data as well as uncover additional medications not paid through insurance in order to develop the best care plan for our patients and avoid drug therapy problems.

Are your members at risk of harmful drug interactions?

 

 

Are you or your loved ones at risk of harmful drug interactions?

Close up of assorted pills and prescriptions
Image Source: iStock.com/klenova

An average Tria Health patient takes 8 prescription medications. Most older Americans take multiple medications each day for a variety of conditions. Typically, when people have multiple chronic conditions, they see multiple prescribing physicians.

Do you think those prescribing physicians talk to one another?

In many cases, the answer is, unfortunately, no.

A new study, called “Improving Health and the Bottom Line: The Case for Health Literacy,” showed how greater health literacy can improve community health, reduce health costs, enhance the quality of care and improve patient and provider experiences.  The lead author of the report, Stan Hudson, said “the relationship between health literacy and health outcomes is very important. We found that low health literacy is a contributing factor for readmission for chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Hudson also made a point that “health literacy helps ensure the best quality of care for everyone.”

The CDC reports that about half of the adults in the United States have inadequate skills when it comes to understanding their health care options.

In another study, National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 1 in 3 who take at least one prescription drug had talked to a health care professional about possible drug interactions. Among those taking six or more medications, less than half had discussed possible drug interactions.

Drug interactions could, best case scenario, prevent medicine from absorbing properly. Worst case scenarios put people at risk of blood sugar issues, kidney damage or even death. Due to the variety of prescription and over-the-counter drugs available, even medical professionals are challenged with identifying potential drug interactions.

Additionally, 1 in 5 respondents said they had used more than one pharmacy in the past two years (including mail order pharmacies), and 3 in 5 see more than one doctor for their care. While 63% of the respondents said their doctor and pharmacists are responsible for identifying potential drug interactions, only 36% said their pharmacist definitely knew about all their medications when they fill a prescription.

Knowledge is Power

This is our focus and expertise at Tria Health. Our team works diligently to improve health literacy among our patients. We have found that identifying drug therapy problems, drug interactions and discovering non-adherence issues are only possible by physically speaking with patients. We empower our patients by educating them on all their chronic conditions, their medications and we make recommendations to prescribing physicians to avoid harmful drug interactions and drug therapy problems. This educational approach has proven to reduce hospital readmissions and improve clinical outcomes for chronic conditions. This helps our patients live healthier lives and helps their employers save on their healthcare costs.

Tria Health encourages you to be an advocate for your own healthcare and take the time to learn more about all your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Knowledge is power.