If you're a fan of prime-time television programs, you've probably noticed that commercials warning consumers about the dangerous side effects associated with certain medications are a fairly common occurrence. However, this may change if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) has its way. In a recent editorial in the Washington Post, the group's president argued that these commercials can unnecessarily frighten patients. As a result, the ILR is advocating that attorneys be restricted in their ability to run commercials that target medications with known dangerous side effects.
Although no one likes to think the medications they've been taking to stay healthy could be causing unnecessary problems, we believe having full access to this information is your right as a consumer. Restricting advertising regarding the dangers associated with medications that have a documented history of serious or even deadly side effects could have severe consequences for patients who might not think to seek out this information on their own.
How Can Patients Stay Safe?
If the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is successful in restricting the ability of attorneys to advertise the dangerous side effects of medications, it will become even more important for consumers to independently research the risks and benefits of any medication they've been prescribed. This information should be in the patient leaflet provided by your pharmacist, but your doctor can also direct you to suitable resources.
All medications carry the potential risk of side effects. However, your risk of being affected by these side effects often varies based on demographic factors. For example, statins are commonly used to lower cholesterol; however, they can cause muscle pain, liver damage, neurological difficulties, and diabetes or other blood sugar problems. The risk of side effects is highest if you're over 65, female, have a slim build, are a regular drinker, and have kidney or liver disease. If you don't fall into any of these groups and you have a strong family history of heart attack or strokes, the benefit of taking statins may be worth the risk.
Other ways to stay safe include:
- Whenever you have a question about the benefits of a medication or your risk of developing side effects, don't be afraid to ask your doctor. Even though your physician may be very busy, it's your right as a patient to be fully informed of the benefits and potential dangers of any treatment you're receiving. If your doctor brushes off your concerns or is unwilling to provide the information you need, consider switching care providers. If you’re worried you won’t remember what your doctor tells you, ask a friend or family member to come with you to your appointment.
- When you're taking a new medication, keep a journal of your symptoms. Write down your dosage, the time of day you took your medication, and any unusual symptoms you've noticed. If you start to see a pattern with troublesome side effects, make an appointment immediately to discuss your concerns with your doctor. It's better to be proactive and overly cautious than to ignore what could be early warning signs of a serious problem.
- Don't stop taking any medication that you've been prescribed without first discussing your concerns with your doctor. Antidepressants and other psychiatric medications are well known to have serious mood altering side effects in addition to symptoms such as nausea and chronic insomnia when if they're stopped abruptly. Other medications such as those designed to control diabetes or high blood pressure can cause your condition to worsen if you stop taking them without an acceptable alternative treatment plan in place.
If you believe you've suffered harm due to a faulty medication, the best way to protect your legal rights is to consult an attorney. Personal injury attorneys accept these types of cases on a contingency basis, so there is no upfront cost to learn more about your eligibility for compensation. Contact Neblett, Beard & Arsenault for a free, no-obligation case evaluation