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Prescription Drug Side Effects What You Should Know

Medication side effects fall under the category of “things most people don’t think about until they have to.” But make no mistake, all drugs have side effects, even if they are so mild that you don’t notice them.
 
When Side Effects Occur
Side effects can happen at any time, according to Kristen Howard, Pharm D. They can occur when you first take a medicine, with changes in dosage, or if you stop taking the medicine suddenly or too soon. If you begin to take other prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs, interactions among the medicines may cause side effects as well.
 
Types of Side Effects
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices. In short, understanding side effects is their business.
 
Some of the most common side effects include upset stomach, dry mouth, and drowsiness. These are relatively easy to manage, particularly if the patient is aware that they may happen. Your pharmacist may recommend taking a medication only before bed (for drowsiness) or with meals (to avoid stomach upset). These common side effects are almost always easy to find on the prescription label, or packaging, if the drug is available over-the-counter.
 
The FDA defines a side effect as “serious” if it is life-threatening; results in hospitalization, disability, or permanent damage; or if exposure prior to conception or during pregnancy could cause a birth defect. The good news is that by the time a medication is dispensed to you, it has been studied at length. Any risk for a serious side effect has been assessed and must be disclosed to you so that you can make an educated decision about the drug you are about to take.
 
How to Manage Side Effects
If you think you may be experiencing a side effect of your medication, speak up! Your doctor or pharmacist will be able to help you understand your options for managing your symptoms – whether that means adjusting your dose, how you take the medication, or possibly trying another alternative treatment. And remember, you are not being a “difficult customer” by speaking up! Most side effects are very common and it is common for different patients to have different reactions to the same medication. Doctors and pharmacists want to help you find the treatment that works best for you.
 
Have more questions? Check out the FDA’s online guide to medication side effects or speak with a medical professional.
 
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