Drug Effects - Pharmacology

Drugs have multiple effects on the body. Some effects are desirable and some are not. The therapeutic effect is the intended physiological effect or the reason the drug is being given. A therapeutic effect can be the drug’s action against a disease such as an antibiotic destroying bacteria. Another physiological effect can be the side effects that occur in the body such as nausea and vomiting or a skin rash. Aside effect is a physiologic effect that is not the intended action such as the drowsiness that occurs when a patient takes an antihistamine. Some side effects are beneficial while others are adverse effects that can be harmful to a patient.

Healthcare providers must identify all known side effects of a drug and weigh any adverse effects with the therapeutic effect before administering a drug. Patients must also be informed about expected side effects and provided Instructions about how to manage adverse side effects if at all possible.

For example, female patients are instructed to drink buttermilk and eat yogurt when taking a broad-spectrum antibiotic. This counters a possible vaginal yeast infection, which is a common adverse effect of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Additionally, a female patient should be instructed to use other forms of birth control when taking this medication because antibiotics lower the effectiveness of birth control pills.

Many times patients will discontinue the use of a medication because the side effects are so unpleasant. Antihypertensive medications (blood pressure medicine) can cause side effects such as drowsiness or the inability to achieve an erection in a male. Patients may decide that this effect is undesirable and discontinue the use of the prescribed drug. Patients should be encouraged to discuss any and all side effects with the provider. Many times, there are alternative medications that can be prescribed.

Abruptly discontinuing the use of a drug may not be in the best interest of a patient. Some drugs may be gradually decreased in dose and frequency. Sometimes patients discontinue taking a drug because they feel better, however, the condition being treated is still present. Some examples of these types of medication are antibiotics and antidepressants.


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Pharmacology Topics