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Americans are taking more prescription medications. They also are taking more supplements — everything from vitamin and mineral pills to fish and flax seed oils. The natural result: More are combining drugs and supplements. That may be riskier than many consumers realize.

Some are risking dangerous internal bleeding by combining certain supplements with blood-thinning drugs. Others are unknowingly reducing the effectiveness of medications they take to fight cancer, control infections or prevent pregnancy.

“It’s a serious concern, and the risk is growing,” says Dima Qato, an assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Qato led a recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, documenting increased mixing of all sorts of medications and supplements among U.S. adults ages 62 to 85. The study found that 87% used at least one prescription medication, 38% took at least one non-prescription drug, and 64% used at least one supplement. Many took multiple drugs and supplements.


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