Every country has its own drug regulatory body that evaluates the risk-benefit ratio before giving the market approval. The benefit of the invented drug must be higher than the known risks. However, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines have some known side effects. The range of side-effect differs from mild problems like sneezing to life-threatening events like a cardiac problem.
Side effects of drugs can be defined as an unanticipated health problem that occurs during treatment with a drug or other therapeutic agents. Side effects can also term as an adverse effect. The manufacturing company of drugs is enlisted the known side effects in their patient information leaflets (PIL).
A clinical trial is an integral part of the new drug discovery process. The investigator must be reported the adverse events or serious adverse events during clinical research including birth defects, deaths, emergency hospitalization, etc. The general population can report any unknown unwanted effect even after the post-marketing phase.
Reasons of side effects
Side effects usually occur after the first exposure to the treatment or sudden withdrawal of the medication and changing of doses. Side effects of any medication can also occur due to non-compliance or non-adherence to the doctor’s instructions.
Following are some reasons that have linked to the drug:
- Improper dose adjustment
- An individual reacts with the drug molecule
- The given medication not only kills the unwanted cells but also hurts healthy tissues.
- Drug-drug interaction or drug-food interaction
Some drug interactions examples are as follows:
A combination of aspirin (non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drug) and warfarin (anticoagulant) provide serious side effects, as both of these drugs act as a blood thinner. The combination of these drugs increases the risk of bleeding and bruising.
Drug-food interaction reduces or alters the effect of the administered drug. For example, statins have a blood-cholesterol lowering effect, but a high-fat diet reduces statin’s effects.
Drug molecules can interact with herbal ingredients like antidepressant medication with St. John’s Wort can trigger hyperactivity in a patient with bipolar disorder.
Therefore, self-medication should not be a practice, as it can increase the side-effect burden. Consult with a doctor before taking any medications.
Common types of side-effects
Constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, headache, insomnia, nausea, skin rash are some of the common mild side effects often enlisted in PIL. But apart from these, some serious side effects include abnormal heart rhythms, cancer, internal bleeding, and suicidal thoughts.
Treatment specific side-effects
Immunization or vaccination
Immunization-related common side-effects are fever, skin rash, and malaise. People are often confused to take vaccination because of these known side effects. But clinical experts encourage taking vaccination to avoid fatal diseases that occur due to different microbial infections.
Cancer treatment side effects
Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of both often use for cancer treatment. But some usual side effects of cancer treatments are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, low blood cell count, and mouth sores. Apart from these common side effects, treatment-specific side effects are also challenging in cancer treatment.
How to reduce side-effect risks?
Knowing the possible side effects is essential to reduce the risk of side effects of any drug. Following are some risk-reducing techniques of drug’s side effects:
- Consult with a doctor about possible side effects of the given treatment. Discuss with the doctor about the step to limit the side effect burden of the prescribed drug. For example, the doctor may recommend taking the drug with food to lower the gastric irritation.
- Patients need to ask for the patient prescribing information from the pharmacist at the time of receiving a prescription. This document provides information about possible common and serious side effects.
- Carefully read the pharmacy label and any note that may be attached to the prescription bottle. The label and notes have information on how to take the drug and possible side effects.