How many possible side effects would it take to get you to think twice before swallowing a pill?
Would 10 do the trick? Maybe 25? How about 50?
Researchers looked at more than 500,000 potential side effects listed on some 5,600 drug labels, and found that the average medication lists at least 70.
Seventy potential side effects from a single drug!
But that's just the overall average -- the researchers wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine that our most commonly used meds average around 100 potential side effects each.
And some drugs had up to 525 possible side effects and reactions.
At that point, it's not a warning anymore -- it's practically a promise... but the researchers behind this study don't quite see it that way.
They seem to think that the real problem isn't the drug or even the side effects -- it's the warning labels!
"Having a high number of side effects on a drug's label should not suggest that the drug is unsafe," Dr. Jon Duke, lead author of the study, said in a news release. "In fact, much of this labeling has less to do with true toxicity than with protecting manufacturers from potential lawsuits."
The researchers claim all those side effects might overwhelm your poor doctor, leaving him unable to figure out which meds might be best for you.
So instead of relying on the standard labels, the researchers proposed creating a computer database that could analyze a patient's history and warn doctors of the side effects they should be most worried about for each patient.
But really, why stop there? Why use a computer when you can get a roulette wheel with side effects instead of numbers?
When docs write a prescription, patients get to give it a spin and see what they should worry about.
I've got $20 on nausea!
It's interactive, fun, and gets patients involved in their health care choices like never before.
More importantly, I bet it would be about as accurate as a computerized warning system too.
All kidding aside, here's the safest bet of all: Just skip the drugs whenever you can... and you won't have to worry about side effects.