Every time a person picks up a prescription drug, the pharmacist goes over the possible side effects with the patient. Some side effects, such as feeling nauseated when the drug is taken on an empty stomach, can be easily avoided. Simply eating a snack or light meal can solve the problem before it even occurs.
Some drugs, however, have much more severe and potentially debilitating, or even life threatening, side effects. Sometimes the side effects become evident during clinical trials, while in other cases, the side effects are discovered after the drug has been on the market for many months. Many researchers theorize that side effects become more pronounced when the drug is taken for a long time. For example, even over the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can cause liver problems if taken constantly.
Vioxx is an example of an a prescription pain reliever, used to treat arthritis, severe pain in adults, and acute pain caused by menstrual cramps, that caused blood clotting in some patients. Blood clots can trigger strokes or heart attacks, and doctors often prescribe an anti-clotting drug to be taken simultaneously to reduce this risk.
Amnesia was a devastating side effect of the drug Mirapex, which was used to control Parkinson’s disease and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Statin drugs, such as Lipitor, which are used to lower cholesterol, have also been known to cause amnesia. One theory is that the production of cholesterol is blocked too well, so even the amount needed for proper neurological function is not produced. Once patients stopped taking these drugs, the amnesia disappeared.
Law suits have recently been filed against the maker of Zicam, which is a homeopathic drug containing the active ingredient zinc gluconate. Zicam claims to reduce the seriousness and length of the common cold and can be taken as a nasal spray or tablet. Side effects include severe burning after using the nasal spray, and the loss of the sense of taste smell and taste, known as anosmia, in some patients. The children’s nasal spray has been taken off of the market.
Prescription drugs should only be taken for the length of time prescribed by the doctor, and if any unusual symptoms occur, patients should contact their physician immediately. Sometimes adverse side effects are unavoidable, because every person can react differently to the same drug.