In my job, I frequently come across situations that show why it’s so important for patients to tell their doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers about the prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products they are taking. We even need to know what a patient has eaten recently, because it can affect how a prescription medicine works.
For example, if you are receiving warfarin (Coumadin ®) therapy to help reduce blood clots, you may not know that certain foods or supplements can make your blood “too thin.” This can cause bruising and bleeding.
I have seen patients who are admitted to the hospital with this problem. After we spend some time talking to the patient, we often find out that he or she has been drinking green tea or using supplements like glucosamine—both of which can make blood thinner.
On the flip-side, I have also seen warfarin therapy patients who have been admitted to the hospital with blood clots in the leg. This can happen if the patient has been eating more leafy greens than usual, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, etc. (all are foods that are high in vitamin K).
These stories show how important it is for you to tell your healthcare providers about every prescription and nonprescription medication, herbal supplement, and vitamin you are taking as well as information about the foods you have eaten recently.
By keeping a complete medication list (see “My Medicine List” on this Web site for a good example) and bringing it with you to each doctor’s appointment or trip to a pharmacy, you can provide important information to your doctor and pharmacist to improve your health and prevent potential problems.
By Mike Berger, Pharm.D., Clinical Training Coordinator, University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy