Combination of over-the-counter pharmacy drugs and prescription drugs dangerous

A British Medical Association (BMA) study is warning that combining over-the-counter pharmacy drugs with prescription medicine can be dangerous. The study authors say there is an over-use of pharmacy drugs as people try to manage their own health rather than going to a doctor.

Leading doctors say GP's need to be trained about such drugs and be more aware about the use of over-the-counter drugs and their possible side-effects.

They also want to see them improve their record keeping.

According to the BMA, pharmacy drugs should be better labelled so patients know what the risks are.

The herbal drug, St John's Wort was given as an example.

St John's Wort, can have adverse effects on prescribed medicines such as the contraceptive pill and anti-depressants.

Apparently eight in 10 people use over-the-counter drugs for headaches, but over reliance on them can lead to dependence.

A greater range of drugs which are often more powerful, are being made available over the counter, and many people are turning to herbal medicines as they feel they are more natural and less harmful than prescribed drugs.The US is also a great influence on food supplements and health fads.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, says it is extremely important that the public realise that just because medicines are available over-the-counter that does not mean that they are risk-free.

Nathanson also says it is equally important for doctors, especially GPs, to know if their patients are regularly taking any over-the-counter drugs.

She says both doctors and pharmacists need to be aware that there are a minority of people who are at risk of misusing and becoming addicted to some over-the-counter medicines, and improved record keeping would help to identify this group.

Dr Jim Kennedy, prescribing spokesman for the Royal College of GPs, agrees it is an area of growing concern. He says the problem is that people don't think of the over-the-counter drugs as medicine so don't tell GPs they are taking them.

He also says there is very little research about what effect these have on prescription drugs.

http://www.bma.org.uk

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