Average Drug Label Lists Over Whopping 70 Side Effects

Drug Side-effectsUsing a computer program, scientists analyzed 5,600 drug labels and more than 500,000 labeled effects. They found that the average drug comes with a list of 70 potential reactions, according to researchers.

In fact, the more commonly prescribed drugs averaged around 100 side effects each, with some drugs containing as many as 525 listed reactions.

MSNBC reports:

“The greatest number of side effects was found in antidepressants, antiviral medications and newer treatments for restless leg syndrome and Parkinson's disease. In general, medications typically used by psychiatrists and neurologists had the most complex labels, while drugs used by dermatologists and ophthalmologists had the least.”

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

On average, if you take one prescription drug you'll be exposed to 70 potential side effects. If you take one of the more commonly prescribed drugs, the potential drug reactions rise to about 100 -- and some drugs even carry over 500! Amazingly, despite this finding researchers told MSNBC that "having a high number of side effects on a drug's label should not suggest that the drug is unsafe"!

What should it suggest, then, is what I would like to know.

Because if a food or a supplement could cause 70 to over 500 side effects, you can bet you'd be hearing about its grave dangers from every media outlet. Instead, the researchers have downplayed the drug dangers, stating that the side effects lists are more about "protecting manufacturers from potential lawsuits" than they are about measuring true toxicity.

But you can rest assured that a drug manufacturer will only list the side effects they absolutely have to … no more. So the fact that the average drug is disclosing 70 side effects is an indicator of just how many risks there really are.

Prescription Drugs Even Deadlier Than Illegal Drugs

You might not realize that more than 700,000 people visit U.S. emergency rooms each year as a result of adverse drug reactions. And, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adverse drug reactions from drugs that are properly prescribed and properly administered cause about 106,000 deaths per year, making prescription drugs the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Compare this to the death toll from illegal drugs -- which is about 10,000 per year -- and you begin to see the magnitude of the problem that the pharmaceutical industry is propagating. Even more shocking, three years ago an analysis of federal data by the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) found that in the first quarter of 2008, fatalities from adverse drug reactions accounted for 23 percent of all adverse reaction reports!

Naturally, some drugs are far riskier than others. But often a drug doesn't earn a reputation for being "riskier" until the fatalities have already begun to stack up. Further, even the "average" medication causes potential side effects, which is a steep risk by any measure.

Just how many risks should be deemed acceptable by public health agencies and consumers?

According to study researcher Dr. Jon Duke, assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, on MSNBC:

" … having all these labeled side effects can overwhelm doctors who must weigh the risks and benefits when prescribing a medication … The Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to discourage such 'overwarning,' but at present, information overload is the rule rather than the exception."

So the FDA has tried to discourage drug manufacturers from "overwarning" doctors and patients about the risks

An important issue that is rarely focused on when examining drug side effects is what happens to those who are taking more than one medication? The potential ramifications are mind-boggling, with side effects numbering in the thousands … too many to ever really pinpoint back to a particular pill.

Polypharmacy Raises Drug Side Effects Exponentially

According to the latest statistics from the Kaiser Health Foundation, the average American aged 19 to 64 now takes more than 11 prescription drugs! The word 'polypharmacy' means "many drugs," and essentially refers to these instances where an individual is taking multiple drugs -- often because more drugs are prescribed than are clinically indicated.

This situation used to be primarily a concern for the elderly, who generally take more medicines than younger folks -- in the United States, the average senior fills more than 31 prescriptions per year. But over the past several years, even children as young as 3 are increasingly being prescribed four or more drugs!

This is a significant problem, as the more drugs you mix together, the greater the chances of serious side effects. And if the average American is taking 11 prescription drugs, and the average prescription drug carries 70 side effects … do the math!

That's an average of 770 potential individual side effects but the drug to drug interaction is far higher and is likely one to two orders of magnitude greater. To me, this is simply unacceptable, especially considering that most drugs people take are for conditions that can be better treated, and prevented, using natural methods.

You Can Take Control of Your Health

There's a reason why I titled one of my foundational books "Take Control of Your Health" and that is because by doing so you can avoid falling prey to drug side effects. You can avoid taking most drugs in the first place, and you'll be that much healthier because of it. Currently you carry the greatest burden when it comes to changing the drug paradigm. I don't think we'll see doctors changing their prescribing ways anytime soon -- it's what they're trained to do. In most cases, it's ALL they do! So as a patient, you have to take responsibility for your health, and question the drugs prescribed to you.

  • Do you really need that drug?
  • Is it prescribed appropriately, or is it being prescribed for an off-label use?
  • What are the side effects?
  • Is it addictive?
  • What are the natural alternatives?
  • Did I do a careful search to check for side effects or natural alternatives?

Ultimately, it's your body, and the decision to medicate yourself for an ailment is yours alone. However, I urge you to research any drug your doctor prescribes before you take it. Do not just take your doctor's word for its safety. Most physicians have little information to offer you aside from what they've been told by their drug reps.

Remember that no drug is completely safe.

Even under the BEST circumstances -- such as with a drug that has gone through unbiased, stringent, long-term testing -- anything can happen when a drug is released into the uncontrolled environment of your body. It may interact badly with another drug you're taking, or perhaps a food you eat causes an unforeseen reaction, or maybe your genetic makeup, metabolism or the state of your immune system will cause it to have an unpredictable impact.

So I hope that you will view drugs as a last resort instead of a first choice, and will instead embrace the massive shift in thinking to realize that your body can heal itself if you give it the proper "tools."

It is possible to maintain optimal health by simply avoiding unnecessary drugs and understanding the fundamentals of good nutrition and exercise. If you start with just the five steps listed below, you will be embarking on a journey to outstanding health and drug-free wellness: