Medication Effects Checklist

"Only the size of the dose separates the medicine from pain"

Paracelsus (1493-1541)

Many of our readers have requested information about adverse drug reactions, defined as undesirable effects of drugs, beyond their anticipated pharmacologic effects under accepted clinical conditions. We have combed the literature to come up with a checklist of symptoms that one can use to determine whether they are experiencing adverse reaction to the drug being taken. Individuals have different reactions to medications and also different reactions to the same medication over time. It also should be noted that individuals have adverse reactions to placebo medication, and that individuals have gotten better on placebo medication.

We would suggest that you complete this survey a week after your treating physician has prescribed a new medication. If adverse effects show up earlier, notify your physician immediately. Concomitant with completion of this checklist, all over-the-counter medications/supplements/herbs being taken should also be listed. Then take this information i.e. checklist and list of all medications/supplements etc., to your primary care physician and discuss possible adverse reactions to the medication prescribed. Some of these symptoms may be temporary and go away in time.

This type of systematic approach will aid the physician in determining whether it is adverse drug reaction symptoms you are experiencing. He will be able to take proper steps to alleviate the adverse symptoms, if related to the medication. In prescribing medication, because of the potential for adverse effects, a physician will usually begin at a lower therapeutic dose and increase the medication with time to try to override adverse drug reactions. There is no way to predict reactions to medication, unless a prior allergy exists or you have had prior trial with this medication.

Please be aware that adverse symptoms can show up anytime during the course of taking the prescription medication and that such effects are not uncommon. The Physician’s Desk Reference* is the "bible" for physicians as far as side effects of medication are concerned. Thumbing through it, you will notice that all medications have a potential for side effects. Therefore, it is not a bad idea to repeat the checklist on a regular schedule. By keeping careful records of your illness, you can distinguish between symptoms that were present before you started taking the medication and those after you have been on the medication.

Medications can have a synergistic effect with other drugs or possibly even foods you are taking. For example, the bioflavonoid constituents in grapefruit juice may cause clinically significant drug interactions. Broccoli and Brussel sprouts can metabolize many carcinogens including charbroiled meat. Herbal products usually contain numerous pharmacologically active constituents, all of which potentially participate in herb-drug interactions. Be sure to discuss all these factors with your physician.

Checklist of Adverse Drug Effects

Record severity of symptoms experienced over the last week as follows:

0=not present; 1=mild; 2=moderate; 3=severe.

---Bad taste in your mouth

---Blurred vision


---Delayed urination


---Difficulty having an erection

---Difficulty having an orgasm



---Dry Mouth


---Frequent urination


---Heart racing or Pounding

---Increased appetite

---Muscle twitching or clenching



---Other stress problems

---Poor concentration

---Poor sleep


---Ringing in your ears

---Spasms or drawing of muscles


---Swelling (hands, feet, face, etc.)


---Tingling or numbness


---Uncomfortable urge to move about


---Weight gain

---Other (Please specify)

The above list contains the most common adverse symptoms. Others may be idiosyncratic or so rare that they should be discussed with your physician as soon as possible. It is also important to know if you are allergic to any medications. Such information should be listed in your medical records as well as having some record of the allergy with you at all times. One can never tell when an emergency could occur and emergency treatment has to be given without records to check for medical allergies.

*The 2002 Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) is now available. Also available is PDR for Nutritional Supplements tm First Edition covering the full spectrum of non-herbal nutritional supplements including vitamins, minerals, sports nutrition products, amino acids, probiotics, metabolites, hormones, enzymes and cartilage products.


Harold Rubin, MS, ABD, CRC, Guest Lecturer
posted January 12, 2002

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