Millions of Americans Experience Side Effects from Medication

Benefits versus adverse effects of medication should be heavily weighed

Alappatt HSDAYTON, Ohio (April 11, 2016) – Prescription medication intended to help a person with an ailment or disease can often cause another health issue to pop up.

Millions of Americans experience medication side effects from prescription medication. A study conducted by the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality   found that 4.5 million Americans go to a doctor’s office or emergency room each year because of adverse drug effects – a rate that’s higher than more common illnesses such as pneumonia.

According to the Federal Drug Administration  (FDA), all medicines have benefits and risks. The risks of medicines are the chances that something unwanted or unexpected could happen when someone consumes it. Risks could be less serious, such as an upset stomach, or more serious, such as liver damage.

Patients need to keep in mind that their individual health and issue which is being treated is the focus of their care. Any decisions as to how to handle side effects should be considered in light of their individual situation, says Anessa Alappatt, MD, a primary care physician with Fairborn Medical Center.

“There are many times that the risk of a side effect from a drug will be outweighed by the benefit that medication has on that person’s health,” says Dr. Alappatt, who practices with Premier HealthNet. “If you are experiencing a little bit of nausea in the morning versus the medication is saving your life it is probably worth it to take the medication.”

The most common side effects are nausea, diarrhea, constipation and vomiting. Other side effects can include issues with a person’s skin – such as bruising – as well as fatigue and lightheadedness. Serious side effects have been linked to organ damage or cardiovascular events.

The FDA recommends that individuals learn about the side effects for a drug when it is initially prescribed. This can be done by reading the drug label or the drug’s package insert. A drug’s possible side effects may also be included in a list provided by the FDA on its website at . Using these resources can help patients better identify side effects and address concerns they might have with a healthcare professional. 

The following points are important to remember if you think you are experiencing medication side effects:

Report changes – Consult with your health care provider if you experience any physical changes that don’t seem normal or right. Find out if it could be a reaction to a medication and if so, how long it could stick around. Some drug reactions may only last a couple of days until the body has had time to acclimate to the new medication, Dr. Alappatt says.

Multiple medications – An adverse drug effect can be the result of a drug interaction if you are taking multiple medications. Ask your physician or pharmacist to take a look at your entire drug regime to determine if this is the case and advice about what can be done.

Alternative steps – The answer to a particular medical problem doesn’t always come through medicine. Have a conversation with your physician as to whether your medical condition can first be treated through lifestyle changes. Conditions such as hypertension and diabetes are examples of diseases that can often be managed through changes in a person’s diet and exercise.

Side effect vs. allergy – Dr. Alappatt says there is a distinct difference between a person experiencing a side effect or an allergy to a medication. A doctor can switch a patient to a different medication in the same drug class if they are having a side effect, but not if they experience an allergy.

Seek expert advice – Avoid the temptation to stop taking a medication when an adverse side effect happens. It is important to consult with your physician as to whether it is safe to stop taking a medication. Your physician can also determine if a different drug can be used to treat your issue.

For more information on medication side effects or to find a Premier HealthNet healthcare provider near you, visit

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