Millions of people are prescribed medications, and many are prescribed multiple. Despite the stringent oversight of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many negative side effects or bad interactions with other medications can still occur, even when taking medications as instructed. These adverse drug events/reactions are defined as “any undesirable experience associated with the use of a medical product in a patient,” according to the FDA.
The main sources of these adverse events include:
- An individual’s body simply reacts badly to a drug in an unexpected way.
- Incorrect dosing or incorrect administration of a drug.
- Combination of medications resulting in an adverse event.
Dr. Cindy Haines draws attention to these unfortunate events in her article, “What Patients Can Do to Prevent Medication Errors.” A study conducted by Health Services Research found that half a percent of all ambulatory healthcare visits in adults are related to adverse drug events. These undesirable effects account for 4.5 million doctor visits each year. The American Medical News found that nearly 1.9 million hospital stays had a drug-related adverse outcome in 2008.
Of these events, high risk factors can increase the likelihood of an adverse event occurring. People who take six to eight medications were found to be four times more likely to visit their doctor due to an adverse reaction to medication. Typically, the elderly take more medication so as a result, they have a higher risk as well compared to young adults. None of these results include information based on children.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 patients die from adverse drug events in the U.S. each year. Dr. Haines suggests the best way to avoid such an event is to reduce the number of medications you take and to make lifestyle changes in order to prevent the need for medication. Things such as exercise, eating more plant-based foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking are great ways to prevent disease. Also, be aware what medications you are taking (prescribed or over-the-counter) and talk with your doctor and pharmacist about any potential drug interactions or known side effects.