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Adverse event versus side effect

| Feb 5, 2019 | Failure to Diagnose

Many people often use the terms “adverse event” and “side effect” interchangeably but doing so can have grave consequences. In brief, an adverse event is an unintended pharmacologic effect that occurs when a New York health care provider administers a medication correctly. A side effect, on the other hand, is a secondary unwanted effect that occurs because of drug therapy. Because the brief explanation may cause more confusion than it alleviates, this post explores both adverse events and side effects more in-depth.

According to an article published in Pharmacy Times, an adverse event is an undesired occurrence that occurs when a patient takes a medication correctly. Adverse events fall into one of two categories: Type A and Type B. Type A reactions are commonly dose-dependent and can range in severity. A health care provider can often predict these types of events. Type B reactions, on the other hand, are completely unpredictable and occur less frequently than Type A reactions. They often occur because a patient has an allergy or intolerance of which the provider was unaware. These events often occur because of an oversight on the provider’s part.

A side effect is an undesired yet foreseeable effect that occurs regardless of the dose. Providers typically know when a drug produces a certain side effect and can warn the patient of the possibility of one occurring. 

According to VeryWelll Health, the symptoms of adverse reactions can be mild, such as a rash or heartburn, moderate, such as nausea, fatigue and dizziness, and severe, such as death. Because adverse reactions can be life-threatening, it is imperative that a health care provider distinguish between a side effect and adverse reaction and respond accordingly. Adverse reactions can occur immediately after treatment begins or can take several days or weeks to develop. 


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