The Times West Virginian


February 5, 2008

Over-the-counter drugs

Be careful to avoid harmful side effects

FAIRMONT — Read the label of ingredients or the warning sheet that comes with your favorite OTC (over-the-counter) cough or cold remedy.

Taking the extra time to inform yourself can spare you bad side effects if you are taking a prescription drug for a chronic health condition, like high blood pressure, says Joseph Frederick.

The head pharmacist at the Fairmont Family Pharmacy at Fairmont General Hospital, Frederick said health experts have long known about interactions between OTCs and prescribed drugs.

“We are so blessed today than we were about a decade ago because we now have all the ingredients listed in OTC medications,” Frederick said.

OTCs also now come with warnings that consumers should avoid taking the remedy if they have a certain health condition, like high blood pressure or depression.

Pseudoephedrine is a common ingredient in many cough and cold remedies, he said.

Unfortunately, it can elevate blood pressure, something that those with hypertension or high blood pressure want to avoid, Frederick said.

If one is seeking relief from that stuffy nose symptom common to a cold, a nasal decongestant that, in reality, is simply a saline solution (salt plus water) is the answer, he said.

Diet, as diabetics know, can also affect the way an individual metabolizes an OTC or prescription drug, Frederick noted.

Salt or sodium is another red flag ingredient in processed foodstuffs for those with high blood pressure.

When MAO inhibitors — monoamine oxidase, to be specific — were popular several years ago for depression, interactions with an individual’s diet were more marked, Frederick said.

Consumption of “red wines, cheeses and red meats were found” to interact with those prescribed ingredients.

That problem has been greatly reduced with today’s anti-depressant prescription treatments for depression, like Prozac and Paxil, Frederick and Dr. Tara Whetsel said.

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