Prescription drugs can bring many health benefits. In some cases, they can even save lives. However, many of them come with troublesome side effects. While some of these effects are merely unpleasant, others can be harmful or even deadly. Not all prescription drugs are safe, and they can affect users in unexpected ways.
Prescription Drugs and Wrongful Death
Around 4.5 million Americans report adverse effects from prescription drug side effects each year that results in a visit to the doctor or an emergency room. Also, as many as 2 million persons hospitalized go on to suffer ill health from prescription medications administered in the hospital. This statistic is particularly alarming because these individuals are under the care of medical professionals.
Just about all medications have some types of side effects. This applies to both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The side effects can range from slightly undesirable to downright dangerous. The effects in some cases can continue for years after the drug was taken, or cause permanent damages. In the worst cases, drug side effects result in premature death.
Mortality Rates Continue to Climb
In fact, the rates of people becoming ill or even dying as a result of the side effects from prescription drugs are higher than ever. This is because the prescribing of drugs for medical issues has become all too familiar. While many drugs can help, others have extremely dangerous side effects.
Even medications considered “all natural” can carry unwanted side effects. Prescription drugs are required to undergo clinical trials and stringent testing. However, federal drug regulators allow some degree of side effects.
Also, drug side effects can vary from one person to the next depending upon a range of factors. Age, weight, the disease being treated, dosage, ethnicity and the patient’s overall health are all factors in how a drug affects people.
Weighing Benefits Against Risks
While drugs are federally regulated, side effects are hard to avoid. In some cases, drug benefits are seen as beneficial enough by federal regulators that they are said to outweigh the dangers of these side effects. Some of these drugs are left on the market by drug makers even after reports of harmful side effects have surfaced.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees every new drug application. Their decision depends on upon the results of clinical trials conducted by drug companies showing a drug’s therapeutic benefits. The FDA weighs the advantages and disadvantages of each drug with the intention of only approving the ones with more helpful benefits than harmful effects.
A Flawed System?
After a drug is approved and goes to market, it can be monitored by the
FDA’s MedWatch. MedWatch is a voluntary postmarket surveillance program allowing healthcare professionals the opportunity to report any adverse drug effects they see going forward. Regardless of voluntary participation in this program, pharmaceutical companies are still expected to report any issues with a drug even if it was approved by the FDA.
Perhaps due to the voluntary nature of MedWatch, the whole system has the tremendous potential to be abused, and consumers are the ones who suffer most.
Serious Drug Side Effects
While common side effects may not interfere too much with the quality of life, some medications come with side effects that are dangerous to health. If a particular drug is found to have problems, it can be labeled with warnings affixed to the label as per orders by the FDA. One of the most stringent is the “black-box” warning. In the most extreme cases, a drug can be recalled and removed from the pharmaceutical market entirely.
The side effects of drugs can cause emotional and physical harm. Severe, ongoing pain, headaches, nausea, loss of coordination, decreased control of bodily functions, and even paralysis are some possibilities. This can be due to the numbing effect of some drugs that dulls pain perception.
Some drug side effects include memory loss/amnesia, losing one’s sense of taste, vision loss, and experiencing hallucinations. Of course, patients should carefully read labels and ask a medical professional about the possible side effects before taking any drug.
Heart Conditions and Stroke
Heart attacks, heart damage, cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure are also caused by some drugs. Water-weight gain resulting from some medications can also lead to heart issues. Avandia, Actos, and Celebrex are just a few examples. Testosterone replacement therapies or “TRT” drugs have been shown to double the risk of heart attack.
A stroke is a blood flow disturbance in the brain that leads to a rapid loss of brain functioning. Numerous prescription drugs have been shown to cause strokes, in some cases due to causing the formation of blood clots. Alzheimer’s drugs like Risperdal and the painkiller Vioxx are linked with causing strokes.
Cancer Caused by Prescription Drugs
Many people are shocked to find out that some prescription drugs can cause cancer. Most people spend their lives avoiding foods and substances that contain carcinogens, so to find out a drug that was supposed to help them gave them cancer can be a tremendous blow. Understandably, these people feel particularly cheated and misled.
For example, Tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug, has been linked to causing uterine cancer. Actos, a diabetes drug, is associated with an extremely high risk of bladder cancer in persons taking the drug more than two years.
Some prescription drugs cause side effects that can result in gradual or immediate death. From liver failure to a sudden heart attack or stroke to a deadly form of cancer, the causes of death from medications can be diverse.
Other drugs can have psychological effects that cause patients to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t, including committing suicide. Numerous antidepressant drugs have been linked with suicidal ideation and actions.
“Common” Drug Side Effects
Just about every drug comes with some side effects that are more of a nuisance than a hazard. The most frequent to occur are nausea, constipation, diarrhea or other gastrointestinal issues due to their passage through the digestive system before being absorbed. Other side effects can include drowsiness, skin reactions and moderate pain. Some side effects can be specific to particular groups such as children, seniors or women.
Dizziness is another possible common side effect, but this one can have grave consequences. For example, elderly or already unsteady patients could fall during a dizzy spell and suffer additional health problems including broken bones.
Some common drug side effects may be minor to some, but serious for others. For example, while nausea and vomiting aren’t necessarily deadly, they can lead to medical issues in those who are already in a weak state. Chemotherapy drugs can cause severe nausea and vomiting in patients. Dehydration, esophageal problems, and internal bleeding can eventually lead to death.
Drug side effects can reduce the quality of life and in some cases result in serious health challenges. In the most extreme cases, they can cause premature death.
If you or someone you love has suffered as a result of drug side effects, a skilled attorney can assist with determining if you have legal recourse. A medical malpractice lawyer knows the law and can verify if you have a case. If justice is pursued, you might be awarded a substantial settlement as compensation.