Hundreds of millions of people across the globe rely on medications for their survival. In fact, the percentage of people using prescription medications might surprise people who work outside the health care industry.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2015-16, nearly 46 percent of the population of the United States used prescription drugs in 2015-16. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that prescription drug use is similar in Canada, where the Canadian Health Measures Survey found that roughly two-thirds of adults between the ages of 40 and 79 used at least one prescription drug in a 30-day period.

Prescription drugs might be vital to many people’s survival, but they also can prove deadly if mismanaged. That’s especially true for people taking more than one medication. Taking multiple medications each day might be necessary, but it’s equally necessary that people taking more than one medication every day take steps to avoid drug interactions.

• Discuss all medications with each of your doctors. Primary care physicians and specialists should be kept in the loop regarding which medications their patients are taking. Patients should never assume their doctors know every medication they’re taking. When prescribed a new medication, mention to your prescribing doctor what else you are taking. Include prescription medications but also over-the-counter, or OTC, drugs, supplements and even vitamins. Use a notes app on your smartphone to create a running list of your medications so you can easily access it during doctor’s appointments.

• Read all labels. Prescription drugs and OTC medications list potential side effects in different ways. Each prescription medication comes with a lengthy list of potential side effects, whereas OTC labels cite potential side effects in the “Warnings” section on their labels. Familiarize yourself with all potential side effects of a given medication prior to taking it. Err on the side of caution and wait to speak with your physician before taking an OTC medication you’re unfamiliar with.

• Order all prescriptions from the same pharmacy. Ordering all prescriptions from the same pharmacy makes it easy to access all prescriptions. Pharmacists can look up all prescriptions and cross-check interactions that might result from taking certain medications at the same time. This safety net can be useful and convenient.

• Utilize online resources. The Drug Interactions checker at drugs.com/drug_interactions.html is a convenient way to learn about the potential interactions that can result when taking more than one medication or even mixing it with certain foods or beverages.

Drug interactions can be deadly, which only underscores the importance of being careful when taking more than one medication at a time.

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