The Surprising Side Effects of Popular Prescription Drugs: What You Need to Know

Prescription drugs help millions manage their health issues.  According to the Health Policy Institute, over 130 million people, or 66% of the adult population, are on prescribed medications. Moreover, the CDC believes that around 46% of US adults have consumed a prescription drug in the past 30 days. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has licensed over 20,000 prescription medications for marketing. However, even approved medications can sometimes cause unexpected and severe side effects. While minor side effects like nausea or headaches are common, some drugs have been linked to life-threatening complications. 

The key to avoiding such side effects is staying informed about your prescribed medications and their potential risks.

Understanding Prescription Drugs

Now that we understand how widespread prescription drug use is, let’s look at how these medications work. 

Prescription drugs stand apart from over-the-counter (OTC) medications on store shelves. They require a doctor’s prescription because they are intended to treat particular medical conditions. These medications are often more powerful than OTC medications and come with a greater risk of serious side effects.

Unlike over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs also have stronger active ingredients and potential side effects. They undergo rigorous testing and clinical trials to ensure their safety and efficacy. However, even after approval, some individuals might experience side effects as each body reacts to them uniquely. 

It’s paramount to obey your doctor’s orders when using prescription drugs. Misuse or abuse can lead to devastating consequences and possibly life-threatening reactions. Understanding the nature of your medication and its intended purpose is the first step toward using it safely and effectively.

Understanding the Risks: Side Effects to Watch For

When you start a new prescription drug, you may experience some common side effects. These can include nausea, dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, insomnia, and digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea. 

While these effects are generally manageable, it’s essential to report any unusual or persistent symptoms to your healthcare provider. Though such common side effects are well-documented, some prescription drugs have been linked to severe and even life-threatening complications. 

One example is Tepezza, a drug approved for treating thyroid eye disease. The medication has been the subject of a Tepezza hearing loss lawsuit due to reports of patients experiencing hearing impairment.

Another recent case is the Atovaquone recall, a specific antibiotic that causes life-threatening infections. This antibiotic helps prevent and treat Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PCP). PCP is an infection caused by the Pneumocystis jirovecii fungus. The drug was contaminated by  Bacillus cereus. Consuming it might cause food poisoning and gastrointestinal problems.

A few months ago, another concerning issue surfaced where some acne treatment products were found to contain benzene, a chemical linked to cancer. Several brands, like Proactiv, Clinique, and Johnson & Johnson, were forced to recall their products. The research found that some treatments had benzene contents up to nine times the permitted amount. Moreover, these levels increased when the products were tested in practical scenarios.

While further investigation is needed, these cases highlight the potential for unexpected risks with various types of medication.

Protecting Yourself: What You Can Do?

The good news is that you can take steps to protect yourself from unexpected medication side effects:

  • Read Thoroughly: Always read the medication information leaflet provided by your pharmacist. Check the side effects section.
  • Research Online: Use reliable resources like the FDA website for in-depth information about your medications.
  • Track Changes: Notice any new symptoms or changes in how you feel after starting a new medication, and share your concerns with the doctor.

If you have a bad reaction, report it and seek legal recourse. The FDA’s MedWatch program allows reporting of unknown serious side effects. Additionally, TorHoerman Law recommends seeking law firms specializing in medication-related lawsuits, as they can help you explore your options.

Talking to Your Doctor

Open conversations with your doctor are vital to managing medication risks. Here’s what to discuss:

  • Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask about potential side effects, especially if you have a history of medication sensitivities.
  • Explore Alternatives: Ask your doctor if there are alternative medications that might lower the risk of side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How Long Before the Side Effects of Prescription Drugs Appear?

The timeline can vary. For some people, side effects start soon after starting a new medication. But for others, it can take a week or months to experience any changes. 

The key is to stay alert and let your doctor know if you feel weird.

Q2. Are There Any Lifestyle Factors That Can Increase the Impact of Side Effects From Prescription Drugs?

Absolutely. An unhealthy lifestyle can sometimes amplify the risk or severity of side effects. Things like a poor diet, drinking excessive alcohol, smoking, a lack of exercise, and high stress levels can all play a role. 

Taking care of yourself by making healthy choices can minimize the risk of side effects from certain medications.

Q3. Should I Stop Taking Medications Immediately?

No, stopping medication suddenly can worsen your condition or cause withdrawal symptoms. Always consult your doctor before changing your medication program.

In conclusion, prescription meds can make a difference, but they aren’t without risks. The key is keeping up with things. Read those labels carefully, pay attention to your body, and don’t hesitate to speak up if something seems off. 

Your doctor is there to help, so be open about any concerns or side effects you might be experiencing. Remember, your health and safety should come first when consuming any medication. A little vigilance can go a long way in avoiding serious complications.