What are prescription drugs?

A prescription medication is a drug that is licensed and regulated by legislation so that it requires a medical prescription before it can be obtained by a patient. In the United States, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act defines what requires a prescription. Prescription drugs are generally authorized by veterinarians, dentists, optometrists, medical practitioners, and advanced practice nurses. The safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs in the U.S. is regulated by the federal Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with implementing this law.

What are the dangers with prescription drugs?

Although medications must go through many tests and clinical trials before being approved for use, often serious health risks often become apparent only after a drug has been aggressively marketed and prescribed to millions of patients. This may be true even if those risks may have been apparent to manufacturers in early clinical trials. Drug makers invest millions of dollars in developing these medications, which can make it tempting to turn a blind eye to early warning signs of trouble.

Some serious adverse events that have been associated with prescription drugs include blood clots, irregular heart rhythm and heart attack, stroke, liver failure, uncontrolled bleeding, and bladder cancer. Some prescription drugs have been linked to patient deaths.

The FDA collects information about serious adverse events associated with prescription drugs through its MedWatch program. However, because this is a voluntary program, it is suspected that many cases of adverse events are not calculated because they are never reported. As a result, the FDA may have a lower estimation of the risk of a particular drug.

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