Side effects are unwanted effects that can happen while you are taking a medicine. They may also be called "adverse drug reactions" or "adverse medicine events." All medicines can cause side effects, including prescription medicines and medicines you can buy from a pharmacy, supermarket or health food shop. This includes such things as herbal or "natural" medicines, vitamins and minerals.
Sometimes side effects are predictable and are related to the way the medicine works. For example, a medicine that is used to stop diarrhoea may cause constipation as a side effect. Other side effects are not predictable or related to the way the medicine works. An example is an allergic reaction to an antibiotic.
The CMI for your medicine will list the signs and symptoms of side effects that you need to watch for. It will tell you what action to take if a side effect happens. Some side effects are common but not serious, and you will only need to get advice from your doctor or pharmacist if the symptoms are worrying you. Other side effects may not happen often but are potentially serious and you will need to take immediate action. If you are concerned about the possible side effects of your medicine, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
How to report a suspected side effect
Australia's regulatory agency for medicines has a system for monitoring side effects of medicines that are used in Australia. It is a voluntary system that relies on reports of suspected side effects from health professionals and consumers. Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether a possible side effect is due to a medicine or to something else. If you suspect that you have developed a side effect from a medicine, even if you are not sure, it is important to report the problem.
You can ring to report your experience to the Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237. This phone-in service, provided by the Mater Hospital, Brisbane, is available Australia wide for the cost of a local call (9am to 5pm AEST Monday to Friday ). The service forwards reports of suspected side effects to the Government's Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee (ADRAC) for review.
You can also report a suspected side effect to your doctor or pharmacist, who can complete a report to ADRAC on your behalf. More information on reporting side effects of medicines is available on the Therapeutic Goods Administration web site at http://www.tga.gov.au/safety/problem.htm