In most cases, drug side effects are not dangerous and will go away with time. In some cases, however, dangerous drug side effects can result in medical injury, disability or be life-threatening.
Drug Side Effects
All medications can cause side effects. Most of these side effects are mild to moderate and will go away as the patient becomes accustomed to the medication or when a drug is discontinued. But some drug side effects can be more bothersome, persistent or even dangerous.
Avoiding Dangerous Drug Side Effects
Estimates show that over 2 million cases of severe adverse drug reactions occur each year in the U.S. The Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 700,000 people a year, especially the elderly, experience adverse drug side effects that lead to emergency room visits. In patients 65 years and older. In many cases, dangerous drug side effects occur in medications which are known to be potent and should be monitored closely.
Others occur in newer drugs which do not have long-term safety records or in patients who may not have needed or should not have been given a particular drug. Side effects can be sudden and unexpected and patients or their healthcare providers have not always been given enough information to make an informed choice.
Side effects may be considered minor or mild if they do not cause significant harm or discomfort. Severe side effects may cause temporary inability to conduct routine activities or may be more serious.
Serious side effects, also known as serious adverse events (SAEs) are defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as those that:
- Requires hospitalization or prolonged hospitalization
- Causes significant or persistent disability
- Results in birth defect or congenital anomaly
- Requires significant medical treatment to prevent further serious harm
- Result in death
Though reporting is technically not required, when a drug is suspected of causing harm, serious adverse events should be reported to the FDA.
Learn as Much Information as Possible About New Medication
When being prescribed a drug, it’s best to get as much information about it as possible from the physician, the pharmacist, and from the enclosed safety information provided with the prescription.
- Tell the doctor about all medical conditions and medications that are taken, including over-the-counter medicine and health supplements.
- Tell the doctor about any drug side effects that have been experienced in the past. This is especially important because sensitivities or allergies to a prior drug may prevent use of a new drug or may indicate another health condition.
- Ask the doctor or nurse in the office to explain a drug’s action, potential drug side effects and any drug interactions very clearly.
- Ask the doctor about any dangerous drug side effects and what action should be taken if they occur.
- At the pharmacy, elect to speak to the pharmacist and listen to what they say. Ask any additional questions.
- Prescription drugs come with safety information for patients. Read and follow safety information that comes with each drug. Follow any safety or special instructions such as avoiding other drugs or alcohol, using sunscreen and not driving while on medication.
Over-the-counter drugs can also have drug side effects. Read the packaging and insert for information. It is a good idea to review drug safety information every few months and discuss with a doctor when needed.
While most side effects are not dangerous, some severe effects may result in injury, hospitalization, disability, birth defects or even death. People who have experienced dangerous drug side effects may wish to speak to an attorney about their injuries. In some cases, compensation for medical injuries may provide relief.