Side effects may vary, and occasionally take a strange twist.
Everyone knows the common side effects listed on virtually every prescription drug: nausea, constipation, drowsiness, dry mouth or allergic reactions.
But sometimes, strange side effects can occur in certain patients.
Here are some of the most peculiar side effects of prescription drugs that pharmacists may want to mention to patients:
Changes in the color of the urine
Many medications can cause changes in the color of the urine, but certain shades are more alarming than others.
Pharmacists are already aware that fenazopyridine (Pyridium), a common OTC analgesic for urinary tract infections, can turn urine into orange or even red. But did you know that other drugs can turn the urine into blue?
Dyrenium, a CYP1A2 substrate used to treat fluid retention and high blood pressure, sometimes turns to blue from urine. Other medications with this peculiar side effect include amitriptyline (Elavil), indomethacin (Indocin) and propofol (Diprivan).
Then there are drugs that can convert dark brown or even black urine, including antimalarial drugs chloroquine and primaquine, and antibiotic metronidazole (Flagyl).
Although interesting, these abnormal urine colors may also indicate that something is wrong with the body, such as dehydration or internal bleeding.
Painful, unwanted erections
Some drugs sometimes cause priapism, a painful erection lasting more than 4 hours. But this unusual side effect is not limited to erectile dysfunction drugs, as it has been reported with the antidepressant trazodone (Oleptro).
In one case, a male patient claimed a pharmacy on the grounds that he was not properly advised on priapism when he filled his prescription with trazodone. He woke up with a persistent erection and sought medical attention 30 hours later.
The patient had emergency surgery and remained permanently powerless. The pharmacy was found to be negligent at 51%, and the plaintiff received $ 357,000 in damages.
Not all unexpected side effects are scary, as some patients accept effects such as hair growth.
For example, finasteride (Proscar) was first introduced to treat non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland but is now also used to treat female hair loss in combination with an oral contraceptive due to a known potential birth defect .
Similarly, minoxidil was originally marketed as an oral medication for high blood pressure, but was later found to grow hair in patients. Now, it is a popular OTC remedy for baldness.
Rarely, patients taking the cancer drug capecitabine (Xeloda) have lost their fingerprints as a sub-secondary effect of hand-foot syndrome.
In one case, a 62-year-old patient with nasopharyngeal metastatic carcinoma was detained at US Customs in December 2008, when immigration officers at the airport could not detect their fingerprints.
He was later advised to travel with a letter from his oncologist confirming that his condition and associated treatment were the reasons why he had no fingerprints.
The effect of a drug on decision making and impulse control can cause a patient to develop an addiction to gambling.
Pramipexole (Mirapex), a treatment for Parkinson’s disease and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), has been the subject of several successful class-action lawsuits against drug makers Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer.
In one case, a retired police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, claimed that pramipexole caused him to develop an addiction to gambling that lost him $ 260,000. The jury awarded him all his gambling losses, in addition to punitive damages.
Zolpidem (Ambien) is effective for patients who need a good night’s sleep, but some users have reported strange behaviors while taking the drug.
Ambien patients were reported to have gotten up in the middle of the night and participated in activities such as sleeping eating, sleeping in sex and even sleeping while driving while in a dream state. Many do not remember these events the next morning.