FAQ about Side Effects of Medication by MedShadow Foundation

MedShadow Foundation’s Side Effects of Medications FAQ

Why should I care about drug side effects?

We started MedShadow because we know that the side effects of medications are too often glossed over and played down. But side effects can affect your quality of life and they can kill. That may sound like an overstatement, but it’s not. Yes, side effects of medications are the fourth-leading cause of death in the US.

Can side effects of medications be serious? What are adverse drug reactions?

Drugs taken as prescribed will very often cause mild, manageable side effects but they can occasionally trigger severe side effects (ADRs, or adverse drug reactions). Each year in the United States, about one in every 250 Americans, or 12.8 million people, go to a hospital emergency department because of an adverse drug event.

What drugs cause the most side effects and adverse events?

Here are the drugs most likely to send you or your loved one to the emergency room:

Statins lower cholesterol, but can increase your risk of diabetes and cause muscle aches and may affect your cognitive reasoning.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is effective at relieving muscle aches. However, taking the equivalent of just two extra-strength pills over the recommended dosage for three days in a row can lead to serious liver damage.

Lavender essential oils have properties that relieve anxiety, but can cause estrogen surges in infants (babies with breasts!).

Could your doctor be influenced by drug companies to prescribe medication? 

Yes. A $20 lunch from a drug representative leads to higher prescribing rates from the doctor, according to research.

It’s a sad truth that some doctors accept direct payment from drug companies. Novartis paid a settlement of $678 million in 2020 to settle a lawsuit brought by the US Justice Department. Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “For more than a decade, Novartis spent hundreds of millions of dollars on so-called speaker programs, including speaking fees, exorbitant meals and top-shelf alcohol that were nothing more than bribes to get doctors across the country to prescribe Novartis’s drugs. Giving these cash payments and other lavish goodies interferes with the duty of doctors to choose the best treatment for their patients and increases drug costs for everyone.”

As part of the settlement, Novartis admitted and accepted responsibility for certain conduct. Novartis isn’t the only drug company that has faced such lawsuits and fines, but companies continue to do it and, worse, doctors continue to take the money.

What health news and information does MedShadow cover?

At first MedShadow editors focused on prescription medications, and then expanded to cover over-the-counter drugs, nutritional supplements. Medshadow also writes about which substitutes are available for certain medicines. Some alternative therapies are proven more effective than drugs. Lifestyle changes can ward off and even reverse the course of some diseases. Nutrition can fuel a healthy life.

Health news and information is especially difficult to get right — medical studies are written using complex and confusing terms. The results of virtually every study are not conclusive and must be taken in context with previous studies.

Our job is to do that work for you, to help you understand what the study means for you and your family. We talk to doctors, patients and scientists so that we get the entire picture, for you.

If a drug company is paying to advertise, will that website, magazine or broadcast openly warn you of the medicine’s risks? 

Common sense tells you that advertising affects whether the whole truth is being told.

These days people talk about “independent journalism,” and we agree that health journalism needs to be independent. That’s why MedShadow doesn’t accept funding or support from pharmaceutical companies or medical device manufacturers. We aren’t bought by big pharma and our paychecks are not dependent on their advertising.

Advertising is not the only way to control the news. Only 15 billionaires and six corporations own the majority of US media outlets and most of them have a political or social point of view in line with the owner’s viewpoint. The biggest media companies also tend to own the biggest websites. One in four people look for health information on free websites. Almost all websites and news outlets carry ads for drugs. See the problem?

We don’t consider websites and news outlets that run ads “independent news.” No billionaire or pharmaceutical company with their own agenda is limiting or dictating what we write about at MedShadow.

Can I trust today’s health news media to report in my best interests?

Independent and reader-supported health journalism is more critical than ever before.

The Covid pandemic has shown us the harsh and painful consequences of health information being manipulated or misused to serve political or economic agendas. People are confused and don’t know what source to trust. The concentration of influence and the shrinking space of broadcast, print, and radio–particularly local and independent–also coincides with an ever-expanding world of digital news and social media spaces driven by advertising algorithms.

When it comes to our health, these trends are especially worrying. How can we trust news about our family’s medicine from the same sources that are selling it or being funded by its makers? Can we count on unskewed evidence or rich nuance on medication safety and side effects from a health site that counts shareholder profits  above readers? The alarming fact is that today’s number one source of online health information, WebMD, is owned by a private equity firm and is valued at over $3 billion based on its ability to sell products through advertising.

Why can I trust MedShadow? 

And what does it mean that MedShadow is “unbiased and unbought?”

MedShadow is a nonprofit and does not accept support from pharmaceutical companies. We are on a mission to provide you and your family lifesaving, life changing health news and information through our balanced and trusted reporting.

MedShadow has a strict “no pharma money” policy. All of our writers are professional health journalists or are telling their personal health story. None of our journalists or personal writers work for or accept assignments from pharmaceutical companies.

Our writers are required to make sure that the doctors they interview do not represent pharmaceutical companies, accept research fees or work for them. Our writers meet with patients who have taken the meds, some without trouble, some who had adverse events caused by the drug.

Our major articles are reviewed by our MedShadow Medical Advisory Board. None of our board members works for or receives grants from pharmaceutical companies.

We have a policy that every member of MedShadow Foundation’s board be free from pharmaceutical conflicts of interest.



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