By Gilda Morales, ANP, DC
Today’s column deals with the almost universal use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications and what patients should know before taking many of the more common drugs. Many times, while doing a review of medications, I find that patients admit to taking OTC drugs, but they are not listed in their charts. When asked why that is so, the usual answer is that they do not consider OTCs drugs or medication since they are not prescribed.
Most patients have the wrong idea that OTC medication must be safe for everyone to take since it is sold without a prescription. Many are simply not familiar with the many brands of the same medication and end up taking Motrin and Advil, not knowing that they are both ibuprofen. They may also add Aleve, not knowing that the entire aforementioned are in a class of drugs called non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, which are highly effective for musculoskeletal pain relief.
However, as effective as NSAIDs are, they are not for everyone. There is an insert in every box, warning people with high blood pressure or a history of heart attacks or strokes against taking the medication because of increased risk of cardiac events. These medications can also increase blood pressure and cause gastric issues such as ulcers in people that take them on a regular basis and on an empty stomach.
Tylenol, or acetaminophen, is another popular pain reliever and is used to treat fever, but can easily cause liver damage if too much is taken. Most medication is not dose dependent, meaning that the drug will not work better if you take more of it, just the opposite, it may cause serious complications.
Please make sure to tell your healthcare provider about every OTC medication you are taking because there could be serious interactions or contraindications for their use with your prescription medications.