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Cybernaut

Think before you mix

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If you’re one of the more than 10 million Canadians regularly taking some form of medication to treat one form of illness or another, from asthma inhalers to insulin, then it might be a good idea to know exactly what you’re taking, how it affects you and how it reacts with other medications.

Although doctors and pharmacists generally do a great job, they don’t always have the time to launch into a thorough explanation of every prescription – the complete write-ups on drugs are often dozens of pages long, and can get pretty technical.

New computerized systems are in place to ensure that you aren’t prescribed two medications that react badly with one another, but mistakes still happen. We’re also learning more about approved prescription drugs all the time, and not all of that new information is good. For example, we’re only now discovering that some long-used antidepressants can actually increase the risk of suicide among youths.

There are places you can go to get more information on the drugs you’re being prescribed that can help you to better understand the risks and side-effects, as well as to take them in such a way to improve their effectiveness. There just isn’t enough room on a bottle or a receipt to get all the facts across.

As always a good place to start is with the government, specifically the Health Canada Web site. There’s no easy way to navigate to the Therapeutic Products Directorate page that you’ll need to get to, so bookmark this address – www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpfb-dgpsa/tpd-dpt/aboutus_e.html. From there you can navigate through a database of all approved drugs, read the latest reports on drugs, and double-check your medications on the Adverse Reaction Information page.

The Canadian Association of Pharmacists also has some information on their site, www.pharamcists.ca in the Consumers/Patients section. The Patient’s Guide can be very helpful, as are the links in the Resource Centre.

RXList at www.rxlist.com is also an amazing source with complete descriptions, ingredients, pharmacology reports, side effects and drug interactions, patient information and other relevant information for every drug on the market.

One of the best ways to get information on your medications may be to type the name directly into Google or another search engine and browse through the results. Not only does the company that manufactures the drug post information online, more articles will also turn up in online doctor and pharmacist forums, medical journals, university research reports and a variety of other sources.

With doctors using drugs to treat a growing number of ailments, chances are that the majority of Canadians are going to be regularly taking one or more type of medication.

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