Get free help preparing your taxes from AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. Find a location


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy
Bob Dylan Talks!


Military and Veterans Discount


You Could Choose Your Dream Vacation


Introducing RealPad by AARP


AARP Auto Buying Program


Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Download the ipad App



AARP Games - Play Now!

Learning Centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.


Heart Disease


Most Popular


Health Discovery

Drug Interaction Danger

At least one in 25 older Americans takes prescription and over-the-counter medications in combinations that could trigger dangerous drug interactions that can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, heart rhythm irregularities and other serious medical problems, according to a new University of Chicago study.

After surveying more than 3,000 people ages 57 to 85, researchers determined that some 2.2 million Americans risk potentially dangerous drug interactions—and that half of those interactions involve common over-the-counter (OTC) products such as aspirin and dietary supplements. The findings were published in the Dec. 24-31 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Interactions between prescription and OTC drugs seen in the study included muscle breakdown from taking a statin (to lower cholesterol) together with niacin, and excess bleeding from taking prescription warfarin (to prevent blood clots) in combination with aspirin. Combining two nonprescription drugs—ginkgo and aspirin—also caused a risk of excess bleeding, as did taking warfarin with simvastatin.

“The take-home message: If you self-medicate or otherwise use over-the-counter medications, you need to consult with your doctor or pharmacist about everything you are taking,” said study author Dima M. Qato, a research associate in obstetrics and gynecology, whose research was partially funded with federal grants. “Many people may not understand that OTCs can interact with prescription drugs and even other nonprescription drugs.”

Qato and colleagues found that 81 percent of respondents regularly used at least one prescription medication, and nearly a third took more than five. Of those who took prescription drugs, 68 percent also used OTC medications or vitamins and herbal remedies.

Consumer Reports provides free information on potential herb and drug interactions. Two more free resources are AARP's drug interaction checker and the checker available through Medscape, a part of WebMD.

Sid Kirchheimer lives in Philadelphia and writes about health and consumer issues.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members get exclusive points offers from Walgreens, Duane Reade and

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members can save 20% on hearing aids with the AARP® Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.

AARP membership discount Man trying on eyeglasses at optometrists smiling

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at LensCrafters.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.