Drug Interaction Checker: A Practical Tool for Safe Treatment
Among hundreds of available medications, some may affect or be affected by another drug, either its effectiveness or safety, when used together. The Prescribing information contains all drug interactions and provides specific recommendations. However, Prescribing information is not always at hand at the physician’s practice or pharmacist’s desk.
Luckily, today there are Drug Interaction Checkers available online, which can help all healthcare professionals to come faster to the required source of information. This easy-to-use tool on your desktop or mobile can answer your question about interaction for two or more medications in a minute.
Drug Interaction Checkers can give you relevant answers and save you time from long and detailed searches that the daily practice does not always allow you to do so.
This article is about Drug Interaction Checkers, how they work, and the data they use. Find out if any can help your daily practice and save you time.
How Can I Use a Drug Interaction Checker?
Drug Interaction Checkers explain the interactions that occur when one drug alters the pharmacological effect of another drug. (1) As per Britannica, the effect of one or both drugs may increase or decrease, or a new or unanticipated adverse effect may occur. Drug interactions may result from pharmacokinetic interactions (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion) or due to interactions on a receptor level. (1)
Many Drug Interaction Checkers (WebMD, Medscape, Drugs.com, Drugbank, RxList, and many more) are available online. The Checkers are very simple to use. Type at least two generic names that you want to check the possibility for interaction in the space dedicated for. Some checkers accept brand names too.
Once you enter the names of the drugs you want to check, you will get the requested response after pressing the “Check for interactions” button.
Different Checkers Provide Similar Responses
Various checkers will provide a similar answer but with different depths of explanation. Let’s compare WebMD, Medscape, Drugs.com, Drugbank, and RxList and see what kind of response each provides.
For example, you want to treat a bacterial infection with doxycycline, but your patient tells you it uses an antacid containing magnesium for heartburn. You can quickly check if these two molecules interact by entering both chemicals “doxycycline” and “magnesium” and get any of the following answers:
SEVERITY – SERIOUS
Potential for serious interaction; regular monitoring by your doctor is required, or alternate medication may be needed.
Magnesium Chloride decreases levels of Doxycycline by reducing drug absorption from the stomach and intestine into the body when taken by mouth.” (2)
SEVERITY – SERIOUS – Use Alternative
Magnesium chloride decreases levels of doxycycline by inhibition of GI absorption. Applies only to the oral form of both agents. Avoid or Use an Alternate Drug.” (3)
SEVERITY – MODERATE
Applies to: doxycycline, magnesium chloride
ADJUST DOSING INTERVAL: The administration of tetracycline with aluminum, calcium, or magnesium salts significantly decreases tetracycline serum concentrations. The proposed mechanism is the chelation of tetracycline by the cation, forming an insoluble complex that is poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. The interaction has also been reported with parenteral doxycycline and oral antacids.
MANAGEMENT: The administration of tetracyclines and preparations containing aluminum, magnesium, or calcium should be separated by two to four hours. When co-administered with Suprep Bowel Prep (magnesium/potassium/sodium sulfates), the manufacturer recommends administering tetracycline antibiotics at least 2 hours before and not less than 6 hours after Suprep Bowel Prep to avoid chelation with magnesium.” (4)
SEVERITY – MODERATE
The absorption of Doxycycline can be decreased when combined with Magnesium chloride.
The absorption of doxycycline is impaired by the co-administration of magnesium-containing drugs, resulting in decreased antibiotic bioavailability and efficacy.” (5)
SEVERITY – SERIOUS – Use Alternative
“Potential for serious interaction; regular monitoring by your doctor is required, or alternate medication may be needed.
Doxycycline hyclate oral form decreases levels of magnesium chloride oral by inhibiting GI absorption. Applies only to the oral form of both agents.” (6)
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges the interaction if taking a product containing magnesium within 2 hours of the time when doxycycline is taken, and this medicine could decrease the doxycycline’s effectiveness. (7)
You can check a possible interaction of up to five molecules at once. This is a practical option for patients with chronic diseases that use several treatment options. In addition, some checkers have developed mobile apps to be even closer to your practice (e.g., Medscape, Drugs.com, WebMD, etc.).
The best way to find out how beneficial they are is to try and test a few checkers on your own. Ensure the one you’ll start using responds fast, with an accurate answer and up-to-date information from relevant sources.
The Content Behind the Drug Interaction Checkers
Drug prescription and administration to patients is a highly responsible task. The chosen treatment should be effective but not harmful for the patient, or at least the safety profile to be manageable and not outweigh the therapeutic benefit. Therefore, despite the type of drug-drug interaction, it is essential to have relevant and up-to-date information.
Relevant Sources of Information
The content behind the checkers is carefully selected from relevant and respectful sources. The drug monographs and drug interactions are based primarily on the US FDA label approvals as a basis for each medication source of information. The dedicated staff in Medscape, RxList, and other checkers take care of their periodic updates.
You may find that WebMD relies on the latest medical findings published in The Lancet, Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and many more. In addition, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists is the major supplier of Drugs.com content, where publications from Harvard Health Publications and Mayo Clinic are used as relevant resources.
Content Created by a Team of Experts
Behind the well-trusted checkers is a huge team of healthcare professionals, clinicians, practitioners, pharmacists, and other dedicated staff. Their writing and editorial role is to ensure all available information is relevant, independent from advertisers, fair, accurate, clinically significant, and periodically updated.
However, Drug Interaction Checkers are only tools, so you should refer to Prescribing Information approved by FDA for more details. Especially when you want to introduce new chemical entities in your clinical practice, double-check the interaction section because new safety data might be approved frequently in the first years of the drug life cycle.
Going through various Drug Interactions Checkers and exploring their functionalities more, you may find additional benefits that some of them offer:
1. Drug Interactions Checkers categorize the severity of interaction. Yet, in some cases, you may find different categorizations among drug interaction checkers (like the example of doxycycline and magnesium shown above);
2. Some Checkers provides a Reference list of the studies and additional resources used for answering, such as WebMD, Drugs.com, Drugbank, etc.; this helps you to go further in understanding the interaction in more detail;
3. If you use Drugs.com and RxList, pay attention to which checker you use. These providers offer two checkers for consumers and professionals;
4. Aside from the interaction checking function, some checkers provide additional education and information on drug interactions;
5. Drugs.com allows viewing your previously saved lists if you sign in.
Drug Interaction Checkers are a reliable tool for fast checking the possible interaction of two or more drugs. You need an internet connection and a minute or two to get the answer while deciding what medication to prescribe or administer.
Yet, checkers are for informational purposes only and with an attempt to provide accurate and up-to-date information, but without full guarantee. In case of uncertainty, check the interaction in the FDA-approved label and be comfortable with the decision while prescribing or administering the medication.