Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Drug Reactions
What is an adverse drug reaction?
Medicines can treat or prevent illness and disease. However, sometimes medicines can cause problems. These problems are called adverse drug reactions. You should know what to do if you think that you or someone you take care of is having an adverse drug reaction.
Can adverse drug reactions happen to everyone?
Yes. Anybody can have an adverse drug reaction. However, people who take more than 3 or 4 medicines every day might be more likely to have an adverse drug reaction. One medicine might cause an adverse reaction if its taken together with another medicine. One way to reduce your chances of having adverse drug reactions is to work with your doctor to limit the number of medicines you take. Tell each of your doctors (if you see more than one) about all of the medicines you're taking, even if you only take something for a short time. You may want to use only one drugstore so your pharmacists get to know you and the medicines you take. Pharmacists are trained to look at the medicines you're taking to see if they might cause an adverse drug reaction.
Are prescription medicines the only cause of adverse reactions?
No. Even medicines that don't need a prescription (sometimes called over-the-counter medicines) can cause problems. Vitamins, health food products and herbs (in teas or tablets) may also cause adverse reactions. It's important to tell your doctor and pharmacist if you're using these kinds of products.
What about medicines I've used in the past?
You might be tempted to save money by taking old medicines that you've used before, especially if you get symptoms that seem the same as the ones you had when the old medicine was prescribed for you. However, it's very likely that you are taking different medicines now than you were when you had the old problem. Even though you didn't have an adverse reaction with the old medicine before, you might have a bad reaction when you take it with the medicines you're taking now.
Is it safe to use a friend or relative's medicine?
No. Using medicines that were prescribed for a friend or relative can cause problems and might lead to adverse drug reactions. You are probably taking different medicines than the other person, and this different combination of drugs might cause an adverse reaction. Also, you might react differently to the medicine than the other person did. To be safe, never share medicines with anybody.
How will I know I'm having an adverse drug reaction?
When you're taking any medicine, it's important to be aware of any change in your body. Tell your doctor if something unusual happens. It may be hard to know if an adverse reaction is caused by your illness or by your medicine. Tell your doctor when your symptoms started and if they are different from other symptoms you have had from an illness. Be sure to remind your doctor of all the medicines you are taking. The following are some adverse drug reactions that you might notice:
The following are some adverse reactions your doctor might notice during a check-up:
What will my doctor do if I have an adverse drug reaction?
Your doctor might tell you to stop taking the medicine so that the adverse reaction will go away by itself. Or your doctor might have you take another medicine to treat the adverse reaction. If your adverse reaction is serious, you might have to go to a hospital, but this doesn't happen very often. Never stop taking a medicine on your own; always talk with your doctor first.