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. Many times, patients have started antibiotics or have decided to start taking natural therapy, like glucosamine or ginkgo-biloba, which increase warfarin’s blood-thinning capability.
On the contrary, 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 (spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, etc.—all are foods that are high in vitamin K) or even drinking green tea (which contains 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”) 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