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          Avoiding Fatal Drug Mistakes

          January 12, 2009

          The death of actor Heath Ledger put a spotlight on accidental deaths from prescription drug overdoses. Dr. Travis Stork, emergency room physician and co-host of The Doctors, highlights some common drug interactions that could be fatal. Be sure to check the label of your medications and speak with your doctor.

          1. Vitamins can be dangerous in large amounts. High doses of vitamin E taken with the blood-thinning agent Coumadin can cause internal bleeding.

          2. NyQuil contains both alcohol and antihistamine ” two ingredients that can depress breathing and slow the heart rate. If someone is already taking a narcotic the combination could be fatal.

          3. Taking Vicodin, Percocet and Darvocet together could be fatal because they all depress your desire to breathe.

          4. Taking Viagra with nitroglycerin for angina could cause a severe drop in blood pressure and be fatal.

          5. Percocet, Lortab and Vicodin all contain acetaminophen, which is the generic name for Tylenol, as do many other medicines including NyQuil. Too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage, especially in those who regularly drink alcohol.

          To check other potential drug interactions, visit, and as always, check with your doctor.

          The American Pharmacists Association recommends this list of questions to ask your doctor about every drug, every time:

          1. What is the name of the medication and what is it supposed to do?

          2. When and how do I take it?

          3. How long should I take it?

          4. Does this medication contain anything that can cause an allergic reaction?

          5. Should I avoid alcohol, any other medicines, food and/or activities?

          6. Should I expect any side effects?

          7. What if I forget to take my medications?

          8. Is it safe to become pregnant or to breast feed while taking this medication?

          9. Is there a generic version of the medication that my physician has prescribed?

          10. How should I store my medications?

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