Some websites that sell medicine can be not state-licensed pharmacies or aren't pharmacies at all; or may give a diagnosis that is not correct and sell medicine that is not right for you or your condition; or won't protect your personal information.
The medicines that sold online can be fake (counterfeit or 'copycat' medicines); can be too strong or too weak, or have dangerous ingredients, or have expired (are out-of-date), or haven't been approved or checked for safety and effectiveness, can be made using non-safe standards, or not safe to use with other medicine or products you use.
You have to talk with your doctor and have a physical exam before you get any new medicine for the first time. Use only medicine that has been prescribed by your doctor or another trusted professional.
There are more opportunities today than ever before to learn about your health and to take better care of yourself. It is also more important than ever to know about the medicines you take.
Reading the label every time you use a nonprescription or prescription drug and taking the time to learn about drug interactions may be critical to your health. You can reduce the risk of potentially harmful drug interactions and side effects with a little bit of knowledge and common sense.
Early in a drug's development, companies conduct research to detect or predict potential interactions between drugs. Experts evaluate the drug-interaction studies as part of assessing a drug's safety.
Mixing two drugs together could make one of the drugs ineffective. The combination also could increase a drug's effect, and be harmful. The result might be mild symptoms such as nausea, stomach upset, or headache, or more serious symptoms such as a dramatic drop in blood pressure, irregular heart beat, or damage to the liver-the primary way that drugs pass through the human body.
The most important enzymes in the liver that metabolize drugs are called the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes. These enzymes break down drugs when they pass through the liver or small intestine.
A drug may affect these enzymes by inhibiting them, which causes reduced activity of the enzyme and a buildup of the drug in the body. Or drugs may "induce" the enzymes, which causes increased activity of the enzyme and a reduction of the drug in the body.
This phase of research in test tubes, known as in vitro studies, allows researchers to perform drug-interaction studies in labs by testing a drug with other drugs that have the same route. This has made the research faster and more accurate. If two drugs go through the same enzyme, the presence of one drug can prevent the metabolism of the other. So this allows you to look at the worst-case scenarios and ask: 'What if we put this drug with that one, knowing that they have the same route?'"
Not everything that happens in a test tube will become meaningful in humans, though. Results from these test-tube studies can tell us whether need to do further testing in people to find out if an interaction is clinically significant.
Researchers say there are several important variables that affect individual differences in how drugs are metabolized, including race, gender, age, and health conditions. For example, people with kidney or liver disease don't eliminate drugs from their system as well as people who are healthy. Very young children and older people have slower drug metabolism than others, and women may metabolize drugs differently than men in some cases.
Over the last several years, there has been a substantial increase in the number of drug-interaction studies the FDA sees in new drug applications. If drug interactions are significant enough, they can prevent a drug from being approved by the FDA. If the agency determines that known drug interactions can be managed and that a drug's benefits outweigh the risks for the intended population, a drug will be approved. Drug-interaction information then goes into the drug's labeling in the sections on "clinical pharmacology," "precautions," "warnings," "contraindications," and "dosage and administration."
The large number of drugs on the market, combined with the common use of multiple medications, makes the risk for drug interactions significant. Consumers need to tell doctors what they're taking and ask questions, and health professionals could do a better job at trying to get the information they want.
But it is good way -- consumers remind doctors of everything they take when they are prescribed a new medication. So a patient might say: "Now remember, I'm also taking birth control pills. Is there a risk of interaction with this new medicine?"
Drug interactions with dietary supplements includes herbs and vitamins, which can interact with drug-metabolizing enzymes. St. John's wort is an herb commonly used by people with cancer to improve mood, but research has shown it interferes with the metabolism of irinotecan, a standard chemotherapy treatment. Vitamin K (in dietary supplements or food) produces blood-clotting substances that may reduce the effectiveness of blood-thinning medicines like warfarin.
The benefits of medicines are the helpful effects you get when you use them, such as lowering blood pressure, curing infection or relieving pain. The risks of medicines are the chances that something unwanted or unexpected could happen to you when you use them. Risks could be less serious things, such as an upset stomach, or more serious things, such as liver damage.
For example, every time you get into a car, there are risks---the possibility that unwanted or unexpected things could happen. You could have an accident, causing costly damage to your car, or injury to yourself or a loved one. But there are also benefits to riding in a car: you can travel farther and faster than walking, bring home more groceries from the store, and travel in cold or wet weather in greater comfort.
To obtain the benefits of riding in a car, you think through the risks. You consider the condition of your car and the road, for instance, before deciding to make that trip to the store.
The benefit and risk decision is sometimes difficult to make. The best choice depends on your particular situation. You must decide what risks you can and will accept in order to get the benefits you want.
In many situations, the expert advice of your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professionals can help you make the decision.
You need keep an up-to-date, written list of ALL of the medicines (prescription and over-the-counter) and dietary supplements, including vitamins and herbals, that you use--even those you only use occasionally.
Ask your doctor if there is anything you can do to minimize side effects, such as eating before you take a medicine to reduce stomach upset.
You always have to pay attention to how you are feeling; note any changes. Write down the changes so that you can remember to tell your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.