A recent study conducted by Quest Diagnostics showed an alarming number of patients combining toxic drugs, for the most part unwittingly. Specifically, patients are concurrently using opioids and benzodiazepines. Often, they’re unaware that toxic drug combinations can occur with both prescribed and non-prescribed medication use. Pharmacists can be the first line of defense in protecting patients from lethal drug interactions.

Here are three ways that you can protect your patients and prevent toxic combinations.

Proactively Check for Potential Drug Interactions

When filling a prescription for first-time patients, request that they provide you with a list of all medications and supplements they are currently taking, including:

  • Prescription drugs
  • OTC drugs
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Herbal supplements
  • Nutritional supplements

Review all this information for potential toxic combinations.

Utilize Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

State PDMPs offer a promising means of intervention for improving oversight on prescription opioid medication. These programs can:

  • Recognize changes in prescribing behaviors.
  • Alert prescribers of patients who are obtaining multiple prescriptions from several providers.
  • Reduce the need for substance abuse treatment by curtailing drug abuse.

Implement Aggressive Patient Education Campaigns

Patient education is one of the best ways to prevent toxic drug combinations from occurring, especially among the elderly. Some ideas for educating your pharmacy patients include:

  • Explaining side effects and potential drug interactions with patients when filling prescription.
  • Encouraging pharmacy patients to have all their prescriptions filled at your pharmacy by offering incentives, such as discount drug programs or coupons good for money off on non-drug items.
  • Having a brown bag day where patients bring in all their prescriptions, OTC medications, vitamins and supplements for review for drug interactions.
  • Offering no-questions asked disposal of expired or leftover medications along with an incentive for doing so.