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SIDE AND ADVERSE EFFECTS OF DRUGS: DIFFERENCES

As clinicians, we reserve the unique position to educate our patients and the populace who use both terms wrongly and interchangeably.

When used, the intent of pharmaceutical products is to add a good therapeutic value to the end user. This is not always the case. While some non-therapeutic effects might be expected, others are not.

Below, we take a quick look at the differences between Side effects and Adverse effects.

  1. Side effects are expected reactions to drugs. Adverse effects are the undesirable unexpected reactions.
  2. Some side effects may be desired (some are undesired) and utilized. No one, not the clinician nor the patient wants adverse reaction to any medication.
  3. Most side effects are foreseeable. The clinician must have told the patient what to expect and what not to expect.
  4. Preparations are made prior or during administration to counter side effects.  This is not usually true for adverse effects.  
  5. Some medications may be prescribed to primarily utilize their side effects. For instance, Loperamide, a derivative of opioids is administered to suppress diarrhea.   Another example is Mirtazapine, an antidepressant. It is usually prescribed to a patient with anorexia for its potential to cause weight gain.
  6. Events related to drugs’ adverse effects is usually human related. Drug overdose, drug allergy and errors due to incompetent practitioners are few of those.  Even when normal doses are prescribed, the real cause of the situation is traceable to either the patient or a missing piece on the part of the clinician.

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