While OTC medications aregenerally considered safe, American Family Physician, an American Academy of Family Physicians publication, notes that "a considerable body of evidence indicates that many Americans do not read labels or heed warnings about possible drug interactions or side effects of OTC products."
Intended for physicians, this AFP report stresses the importance for doctors to stay current on information about drug interactions "and educating patients about their options." Physicians also should encourage patients to report the use of OTC medications -- whether the patients are or aren't taking prescription drugs or are suffering from a severe medical condition.
AFP cited as an example of risks OTC drugs may pose the case of a person taking low-dose aspirin because of its potential to reduce the risk of a heart attack. It turns out that ibuprofen, the primary ingredient in many OTC pain relievers, can interfere with the effectiveness of low-dose aspirin, with potential serious consequences.
The AAFP says it's a good idea to have all patients seek their doctors' advice on OTC medications ... before it's too late.