Lists of side effects keep growing
Lists of the known side effects for prescription medications on drug labels, packaging and advertisements have mushroomed up to an average of 70 per medication.
Cautions about side effects were designed to inform doctors and consumers of potential hazards, but this expansion may have more to do with worries about litigation rather than actual health concerns. Having a large number of side effects on a drug's label does not necessarily suggest that the drug is unsafe. In fact, much of this labelling has less to do with true toxicity than with protecting manufacturers from potential lawsuits.
American researchers compiled a list of the types of prescriptions drugs that were most likely to have a high number of labelled side effects. These drugs included antidepressants, antiviral medications, and newer treatments for restless legs syndrome and Parkinson's disease.
More than 5,600 drug labels and nearly 500,000 side effects were studied to find out that prescription drug labels include an average of 70 different potential adverse reactions with even up to 100 side effects for some commonly prescribed drugs. Some drugs in the upper range even listed up to more than 500 side effects.
The researchers pointed out that the large number of side effects listed could overload doctors who must sift through this information in order to make informed decisions about medications on behalf of their patients.
With current technology, drug labels could be transformed from lengthy static documents to dynamic resources, capable of delivering personalised patient information. Such labels could take into account the individual patient's medical conditions and highlight those side effects that could be especially dangerous.
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