Women more likely to suffer from adverse drug reactions than men; proactive approach may help reduce problems

Most people have taken a prescription medication at one time or another, but according to a report from the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in Rockville, Md., not only do women take more medications during their lifetimes, women are more likely to suffer from adverse drug events than men.

As a result of this trend: "women should be proactive about their medication use," explains Rosaly Correa-de-Araujo, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., senior advisor for women's health at AHRQ.

An adverse drug reaction is a harmful, unintended reaction to a drug administered at a normal dosage. They can be classified as immunological and non-immunological. The majority of adverse reactions are caused by predictable non-immunological effects, which include: side effects from drug ingredient, drug-drug interactions and drug toxicity. A smaller number are caused by unpredictable effects, which may be immune related including: allergic reactions and serum sickness (a reaction similar to an allergy).

Because women are more likely to experience adverse drug reactions than men, it becomes even more important for women to take an active role in their healthcare. Medication is supposed to make you feel better, but if it isn't taken correctly, it can have the opposite effect. Whether you are taking a prescription medication or an over-the-counter drug, you should keep the following guidelines in mind:

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), here's a list of things you should know about each medicine you take:
•Name (generic name and brand name)
•Reason for taking it
•How much to take and how often to take it
•Possible side effects and what to do if you have them
•How long to continue taking it
•Special instructions (taking it at bedtime or with meals, etc.)

It's important for women to inform their doctors and pharmacists about all medications or supplements that they are taking, any known allergies and if they are currently pregnant or planning on conceiving in the short-term.

In addition, to ensure that a medication is being taken safely and correctly, the AAFP encourages people to have a list of questions for their doctor about their medications which include:
•What does the medicine do?
•When and how should I take the medicine?
•What side effects (reactions your body may have to the medicine) could I have?
•Will the medicine react to any other medicines, foods or drinks?
•Should I avoid any activities while I'm taking the medicine?
•What should I do if I forget to take the medicine?
•How will I know whether the medicine is working?

According to Correa-de-Araujo, women should learn to research medications being prescribed for them. Also, instead of tossing instructional package inserts into the garbage, women should always read the instructions. Taking an active role in healthcare can help lower the risk of problems associated with prescription, non-prescription medications and supplements.

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