Every year, approximately 1.3 million people visit the emergency room and about 350,000 are hospitalized due to adverse drug events, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has published findings showing adverse reactions to drugs administered by a physician to be one of the leading causes of mortality in health care.
One of the greatest dangers in the use of pharmaceuticals lies in the potentially-fatal interactions which can occur between medications. Older populations are especially vulnerable, as the possibility of a dangerous interaction increases as patients take more prescription medications in their advanced years. Polypharmacy, the simultaneous use of multiple drugs, poses significant risks to older adults.
To seek legal advice for yourself or on behalf of a loved one, speak with a Jackson, MS dangerous drug lawyer who has represented injured parties in medical malpractice suits.
Types of Drug Interactions
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are three types of drug interactions.
- Drug-Drug Interactions. This interaction occurs between two different prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Doctors need to be careful when writing prescriptions so that a patient does not experience complications resulting from a drug-drug interaction. If a doctor prescribes two incompatible drugs, the patient will likely have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
- Drug-Food/Beverage Interactions. This includes factors such as whether a drug should be taken with food or on an empty stomach, which foods and drinks counteract the effects of the medication, and if alcohol can adversely interact with a medication. For example, there are over 50 medications known to have negative interactions with grapefruit.
- Drug-Condition Interactions. These can occur when an existing medical condition interferes with a drug’s effect or causes it to be harmful. For example, if you have high blood pressure you could experience an unwanted reaction if you take a nasal decongestant.
Dangerous Drug-Drug Interactions
The types of medications most likely to cause an adverse drug event, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are the ones listed below. Older adults aged 65 and over are particularly susceptible to harmful medication effects. Most of the hospitalization incidents which happen because of an adverse drug event in an older adult are linked to one of the following prescription medications categories:
- Blood thinners
- Diabetes medicines
- Seizure medicines
- Heart medication
- Prescription opioids
Speak with your physician if you have any questions or concerns about a possible interaction between any of the medications you are currently taking. There is no comprehensive list of all potentially-harmful interactions. Remember, drug-drug interactions can also exist between OTC medications, not only between prescription medications. Manifestation of drug interactions can vary greatly from individual to individual. Seek advice from a physician or pharmacist before adding any medication or supplement to your daily regimen.
Certain drug category pairings have been shown to interact negatively and cause severe harm in some patients, but interactions can range in severity and be influenced by a multitude of factors. Doctors need to have a full understanding of a patient’s medical history, current conditions, and every prescription medication, OTC drug, vitamin, and supplement the patient takes. Interactions have been known to occur between blood thinners and other classes such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or antimicrobials, some antidepressants and opioids, beta blockers, or painkillers, St. John’s wort and several kinds of prescription medications, and between other classes of drugs.
It is of the upmost importance to communicate well with your doctor. Even a mild supplement such as an herb or multivitamin can cause an adverse reaction when taken in combination with certain drugs. Negligent doctors who fail to ask the right questions, listen to their patients, or take appropriate notes put their patients at severe risk.
Drug Interactions and Substance Abuse
Lethal drug combinations have a high rate of prevalence among substance abusers. Those who practice polysubstance abuse, or the use of multiple types of drugs simultaneously, are in increased danger of overdosing or creating a toxic combination of substances. Combinations may be created intentionally or unintentionally. The following categories of substances in combination can result in harm or death to the user:
- Alcohol and opiates
- Alcohol and benzodiazepines
- Cocaine and heroin
- Alcohol and cocaine
- Opioids and psychiatric medication
- Some antidepressants and painkillers
If someone who know is at risk of toxicity from substance or polysubstance abuse, reach out immediately for help. Professionals can be reached by calling 911, the National Poison Control Center helpline (1-800-222-1222), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP (4357)), or a local addiction treatment services center.
Preventing Adverse Drug Events
The CDC recommends ways to avoid the harm that can come from an adverse drug event. The following tips can help you manage and organize your medications and lower your risk of a harmful reaction or interaction.
- Take all medicines exactly and only as directed.
- Read labels carefully and follow the recommendations of all warning labels.
- Keep an updated list of your medications in a prominent location.
- Use sorting or color-coding to keep medications in order.
- Use timers to help you remember when to take medications.
- Follow all directions for dosage.
- Ask your doctor before taking vitamins or drinking alcohol with your medications.
- Take medications with food or on an empty stomach as it is prescribed.
- Keep up with any blood testing recommended by your doctor.
- Ask questions if you are not sure about something.
- Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any new side effects.
Get Help from a Jackson, MS Dangerous Drug Lawyer
Our team at Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC wants to protect the health and lives of our community of Jackson, MS citizens. No person should be harmed because of the negligence of a doctor too busy or too careless to check the list of a patient’s medications for possible interactions. If you have been harmed because of a dangerous drug interaction, reach out to our office today. We can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.