While millions of people across the globe take prescription medications each day to heal, deal with pain or various conditions, or to save their life, it is also true that the potential side effects of drugs are a frequently-reported issue.

In fact, according to some reports, more than 2.5 million patients are hospitalized each year due to adverse drug reactions, and over 100,000 people die from drugs prescribed to them. Furthermore, prescription drugs are said to rank fourth with stroke as a leading cause of death.

While negative effects happen as often as this, it is still something that many patients just don’t think about when they start to take a medication.Although a lot of the negative effects which can arise from taking medicines tend to be quite minor, and for most people worth it for the benefits that can be received, some problems that occur after taking pharmaceuticals can cause severe harm, long-term health issues, and even death.

Consumers should be aware that the number of deaths due to overdoses of prescription medications has been increasingly substantially over recent years as too. In addition, scarily, research shows that new prescription drugs approved for sale actually have a 1 in 5 chance of causing serious reactions in those taking them.

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It is important, then, for people to do everything they can to protect themselves and their family members from harm, and to be aware of some of the dangers that can be faced when taking medications. Read on for the lowdown on side effects plus some tips you can follow to stay safe today.

Common Medication Side Effects to Be Aware Of

The “adverse events,” as the FDA calls them, which can occur as a result of medications range in severity from mild through to severe symptoms, and even death. When it comes to mild issues which crop up, you have things like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fever, constipation, diarrhea, muscle aches, drowsiness, runny noses, skin reactions, and other symptoms.

While these may not seem something to be particularly worried about, you should be aware that these types of problems can actually end up causing grave consequences. Dizzy spells, for instance, can lead to people falling and breaking bones (this is particularly the case for elderly patients); whilenausea and vomiting can unfortunately cause a cascade of medical issues. As an example, problems such as dehydration, internal bleeding and esophageal rupture can, in turn, end up being fatal in older patients or in those people who have a weakened system due to other health issues.

Over the years prescription medications have also been found to cause death due to cancer, strokes, fatal heart attacks, severe allergic reactions (an anaphylactic response), and sometimes suicide. For instance, Vioxx, a pain reliever, was recalled by the manufacturer Merck after it was sold between 1999 and 2004 and became linked to thousands of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths. (The company ended up paying $4.85 billion to settle 27,000 lawsuits.)

As well, Accutane, an acne medication that was sold for close to 30 years prior to being recalled in 2009, was linked to an increased risk in suicidal thoughts, in addition to birth defects in pregnant women and inflammatory bowel disease.

Bad reactions to prescription drugs have also caused some people to develop lifelong heart damage or heart conditions; and to have to deal with issues such as amnesia, loss of the sense of sight or taste, and hallucinations. Adverse effects have also included physical debilitation from total or partial paralysis, decreased bodily-function control, and severe pain.

Keep in mind that, when it comes to negative effects from medication, the issues tend to depend on a wide variety of factors, and can vary a lot from person to person. For instance, the dosage taken can make a big difference, as can a person’s age, health status, weight, gender, ethnicity, and disease type.

Tips for Staying Safe

Happily, there are numerous things you can do to stay safe when you need to take prescription medications. For starters, it is necessary to speak with your physician about the drug(s). Take the time to go through the list of possible side effects so that you know what could arise if a bad reaction does occur.

You should also ask your doctor about which steps you can take to reduce the risk of such negative effects from arising, such as taking the tablets with a meal or at a particular time of day. This information is usually covered on the printouts that come with medications, or can be found online.

Another tip is to discuss your health history with your physician, as well as the typical lifestyle you have. This will help you, together, to determine if there are any particular allergies which could be triggered by the drugs, or if there are any other particular medical factors that could be an issue.

You should also ensure your doctor is aware of any other medications you are currently taking, as they could interact badly. Keep in mind that this doesn’t just included prescribed drugs, but also the herbal supplements you take.

It pays, as well, to speak with the dispensing chemist when you go to pick up a script from a pharmacy for the first time. Ask the pharmacist what might happen if a dosage of the drug is missed or if you accidentally overdose on it; and double check with them about which drugs or foods could be dangerous to take at the same time as the new medication.

In addition, when you pick up your package, it is always best to check that what is being handed over actually does treat the health issue it was prescribed for. This will ensure that the person who wrote the script hasn’t made an error, or that the chemist on hand didn’t read the listing incorrectly.

If you or a loved one receives a medication at a hospital, clinic, or other type of facility, it is also always worthwhile asking exactly what the drug is before it is taken, and in what dosage it has been administered. This will avoid the wrong medication, or too much of it, from being ingested.

What to Do Next if a Severe Issue Occurs

If you or one of your loved ones suffers from a severe negative effect from a pharmaceutical drug, you are encouraged to report the issue to the FDA’s MedWatch, a program for reporting serious problems with human medical products, including drugs.

Furthermore, you might want to consult a lawyer about trying to get compensated for the injuries, medical expenses, and loss of income, etc. It is always best to choose an experienced specialist in the area, such as a San Antonio personal injury attorney, so that they can represent you effectively. 

Drug Cocktails: Are the Side Effects Worth it? [Infographic]

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