Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will approve the sale or prescription of any medication in the U.S., the manufacturer must prove that the drug is both safe and effective. In other words, the manufacturer must prove that the benefits outweigh the known risks.
That said, all drugs — both prescription and over-the-counter — have side effects. Some of those side effects can be dangerous, if not deadly. Though most doctors would never prescribe a medication if they believed it would cause harm to patients, patients should educate themselves on the potential effects of any drug they take.
Scary adverse reactions to prescription medications
Of the more than 4.5 million emergency room visits and hospitalizations that occur each year because of adverse drug reactions, many are the result of commonly prescribed medications. Those include psychiatric medications, seizure medications, nonbenzodiazepine sedative hypnotics, hormone therapy drugs, female oral contraceptives, and your standard acetaminophen and ibuprofen. According to Pharmacy Times, adverse reactions for which patients should be on the lookout are as follows:
- Blood clots
- Priapism (unwanted, painful, persistent erection)
- Memory loss
- Compulsive behavior
- Birth defects
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
- Suicide ideation
When patients take an active role in their health care, they can drastically reduce their risks of experiencing adverse drug reactions.
How patients can reduce their risks of experiencing adverse drug reactions
According to the FDA, there are a few steps patients can take to reduce their risk of experiencing dangerous side effects and safeguard their health. For starters, patients can outright ask their doctors about potential side effects and what steps they can take to minimize their risks. Patients should follow the doctor’s and pharmacist’s recommendations exactly.
Patients should also ask for information on each drug they take. Every prescription medication comes with pages of information, which should list side effects, steps users should take to minimize their risks and other medications that, when taken with the drug in question, can trigger an adverse reaction.
Finally, patients should read all labels and materials that come with medication. If anything seems off, they should contact their doctors or pharmacist before taking a drug.
Prescription medications can be extremely beneficial when prescribed with care and caution. However, if taken without appropriate care, they can prove dangerous, if not deadly.