Side-effects may occur following the use of certain drugs, as patients respond differently to medications depending on a variety of factors including age, overall health, gender, ethnicity, and the levels of severity of the illness or disease the patient is fighting.
Side-effects may also occur as a result of taking a certain medication in combination with another drug or substance, whether it is a prescription medication, over-the-counter drug, herbal supplement, or food or drink. Beginning treatment with a new medication, ceasing treatment, or adjusting a patient's dosage may also cause a patient to experience unwanted reactions to a medication.
People over the age of 65 consume more than a third of all prescription medications in the United States... almost a quarter of older Americans are sent to hospitals or nursing homes because of problems with medications. According to the California Pharmacists Association, more than 100,000 Americans die each year of adverse drug reactions. The annual bill for treating medication misuse is a stunning $177 billion. [MSNBC, January 2002
Treatment and Prevention
Become an expert on what ails you – do your own research
. The phrase "Ask your doctor" is a favorite in ads for pharmaceuticals, but the fact is that no doctor knows everything.
- Find out as much as you can about your medications. Thousands die each year from medication errors. Know what you're taking, what the name is, what the strength is and what it's for.
- After taking new medications, watch for new symptoms that could be side-effects.
- Bring all of your medicines to the doctor with you – even over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies – so that your doctor can see everything you are taking and possibly detect conflicts.
- Be on your guard, even in the hospital. Every time a drug is about to be administered, even intravenously, ask what it is.