Adverse Effects of Drugs

Dr. Ross Petty (senior pediatric rheumatologist, Vancouver, Canada) once said,' if there is no side effect, there is no effect-size.' There is no use taking a useless drug because it has no side effects. Similarly, it is not appropriate to avoid a drug because it has side effects. One of the most unscientific notions some patients have is that allopathic drugs do not suit them. Drugs are innumerable, each having a distinct structure, form and function. There is absolutely no possibility that each and every drug among these would adversely affect a patient. Effects of a drug administered in proper dose on organ systems other than desired one are called as side-effects. Alendronate used for treating osteoporosis can cause swelling of food pipe (esophagus). This is an undesired effect of Alendronate. One should take Alendronate on empty stomach with ample water and should not lie down for half an hour to avoid this effect. Few side effects are more undesirable such as nausea and hair loss due to Methotrexate. A drug can have toxic effects if taken in more than prescribed dose or for a prolonged period without medical supervision. Some people are allergic to certain drugs due to immunologic aberrations. People can be allergic to ‘everything under the Sun, including Sun'. Anyone can have allergy of anything in this world. Allergy is sometimes hereditary. It is sometimes evident immediately after taking a drug, or sometimes after some time.

Side effects of drugs are of various types. Some drugs affect skin, liver, kidneys, eyes or ears. Some drugs affect bone marrow and reduce blood cell counts. Some drugs are known to increase risk of cancer whereas some lead to fetal malformations. Addiction of some drugs is also known. Some drugs such as steroids cannot be stopped suddenly after prolonged usage. Some adverse effects are mild where as some can be severe and life threatening.

Government authorities do not allow sale of drugs that have serious side effects. Some drugs are withdrawn from market or a precautionary label is attached to a drug if any serious adverse reactions are found post-marketing. A precautionary label is also stamped when disease specific efficacy of a given drug is significant and there is no other alternative drug available. Significant adverse effects usually do not occur in more than 95% patients.