The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Long Do Drug Side Effects Last? For Some, Perhaps Forever

Patients aren't always told that some drug side effects last a long time. Sometimes an adverse reaction can be permanent. People must be warned in advance!

When most physicians prescribe medications, they may not realize they could be in danger of violating the Hippocratic principle to first do no harm. That’s because virtually every drug has the potential to cause adverse reactions for some patients. And sometimes drug side effects last a very long time.

The Benefit to Risk Ratio is Hard to Calculate:

Many prescribers believe that the benefits of any given medicine must outweigh the risks. Otherwise, they would not prescribe the drug. But it is hard to predict who will experience an adverse reaction and who won’t. Even when there are complications from the treatment, doctors expect symptoms to disappear after the drug is discontinued.

That’s not always the case. There are some medications that can cause irreversible harm. Patients must be warned of that possibility in advance, even if the likelihood is low. When drug side effects last a long time some physicians deny they could be caused by the medicine.

Tardive Dyskinesia is a Classic Complication:

One disturbing irreversible drug reaction is called tardive dyskinesia (TD). This uncontrollable movement disorder can result from treatment with antipsychotic medications such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), haloperidol (Haldol) or thioridazine (Mellaril).

Even newer medicines such as risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) can trigger this reaction. An old drug sometimes prescribed for digestive problems, metoclopramide (Reglan), is also capable of causing the disorder.

Physicians initially dismissed the facial, lip and tongue movements, torso jerks and finger taps of tardive dyskinesia as “inconsequential, not drug-related, and certainly rare” (Annual Review of Medicine, Feb. 1975). Now, no one doubts the connection with the medications, especially if they are administered for a long time or at high doses.

TD is hardly inconsequential from the patient’s point of view. One reader reported:

“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on a mood stabilizer. The psychiatrist indicated that adding Abilify would be helpful.

“I began to pace and was unable to sit still. I literally walked the halls for three days straight. I was desperate for relief and…needed to be hospitalized.

“The symptoms persisted long after the medication was taken away. I also had uncontrollable movements with my tongue and slurred speech. None of these side effects were discussed with me [beforehand].”

Stopping antipsychotic drugs suddenly can sometimes set off an uncomfortable withdrawal syndrome, so coming off such medicines should be done only under medical supervision.

Statins and Muscle Damage:

Tardive dyskinesia is not the only potentially irreversible side effect that worries us. Cholesterol-lowering medicines such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor) may sometimes lead to permanent muscle damage.

A study in the journal Current Opinion in Rheumatology (Nov., 2013) reports on an autoimmune condition called necrotizing myopathy. For susceptible individuals, taking a statin turns the immune system against muscle tissue, resulting in muscle destruction that may not be repairable.

Can Drug Side Effects Last from FQs?

Fluoroquinolone (FQ) antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, etc) can cause tendon rupture and long-lasting nerve damage. It took decades before the FDA recognized that these drugs side effects last a long time. Sometimes they are permanent. Here is the official FDA announcement:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising that the serious side effects associated with fluoroquinolone antibacterial drugs generally outweigh the benefits for patients with acute sinusitis, acute bronchitis, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections who have other treatment options. For patients with these conditions, fluoroquinolones should be reserved for those who do not have alternative treatment options.

“An FDA safety review has shown that fluoroquinolones when used systemically (i.e. tablets, capsules, and injectable) are associated with disabling and potentially permanent serious side effects that can occur together. These side effects can involve the tendons, muscles, joints, nerves, and central nervous system.”

Mary in Georgia reports that drug side effects last:

“Ciprofoxacin has devastated me. I was prescribed Cipro for a UTI in April of 2015. Seven days later my feet and ankles were swollen beyond belief. I went back to the same doctor and he gave me Lasix to get the fluid down. It did not help.

“I then started my journey to multiple doctors to try to find out what was wrong with me. I was fatigued beyond belief and could hardly walk My legs were swollen and my calves so tight. I kept trying to go to work.

“Six weeks later the first Achilles tendon tore and a week later the second one went. By this time I was about done in and had minimal mobility. My PCP sent me to a podiatrist. The MRI confirmed the tears and I went into boot casts at 65. I was not a candidate for surgery.

“I developed severe Colitis and diarrhea for four months. I was hospitalized three times. I was put on steroids to combat the Colitis. Steroids impede tendon healing and put me into adrenal insufficiency.

“Oh, the list goes on. I lost 35 lbs and ended up with malnutrition. The tendons finally healed and off I went to 8 months of PT. I still can’t walk right and my gait is totally off and always will be due to the fact that the tendons healed elongated. I still don’t feel right. I lost my job and more than a year out of my life.”

Sexual Side Effects That Last:

The prostate medicine finasteride sometimes used to treat male pattern baldness has been reported to cause long lasting sexual side effects (Journal of Sexual Medicine, Nov. 2012). Another drug prescribed for enlarged prostate problems is dutasteride (Avodart). Here are some stories from readers:

D. C. states:

“I took Avodart for about 15 months before stopping on my own because of the sexual side effects. Although, after a few months Avodart helped the trips to the bathroom at night, it caused my breasts to enlarge and literally destroyed everything related to my sex life.

“I thought I’d rather get up in the night than deal with the side effects. After 6 years of no Avodart my breasts are normal, but the same sexual side effects described in the article are still there [low libido, erectile problems, reduced penis size and reduced sensation or pleasure during orgasm]. Avodart is a very bad word in my vocabulary.”

Please Warn Patients If Drug Side Effects Last:

When drugs can cause such serious and persistent problems, patients must be informed in advance. If they know what symptoms to watch for, they may be able to stop the medication before lasting damage is done. Knowing about the possibility of persistent adverse drug reactions before starting a medication, some people may opt for a different treatment approach.

Revised: 10/12/17

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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my doctor prescribed chloroquine for me and I didn’t hesitate to took it because I believe in him. not knowing the side effects till am feeling dizzy and lightheaded everyday and feeling pass out, please what to do to control this please

About 6 years ago, my psychiatrist gave me Abilify. I did not take it for very long as I was gaining weight very rapidly. A month after stopping this drug, I started with restless legs. The uncontrollable leg movements were so bad that I only slept when completely exhausted. I was given Mirapex to control the RLS and now cannot miss one dose because the thrashing begins again. I have been angry ever since that I was not told this could happen. I am afraid I will be on Mirapex for the rest of my life

Dilantin put me in a wheelchair for over 3 yr., I did my research, and went off the med. which took time. I am no longer in a wheelchair, but legs tire easily still, 25 yr. later. For UTI’s, I take D-Mannose 1/4 tsp. daily, and have had no infections for 10 yr. since I started the d-mannose. I refuse their meds, like statins, and blood pressure pills, and do it by watching my diet, and research.

I have multiple food sensitivities. For 9 months in 2015 I took daily injections of the prescription drug Forteo for osteoporosis. I eventually realized that Forteo was exacerbating my food sensitivities, even though it never entered my digestive system. I stopped taking Forteo in Sep. 2015, but have continued to experience this unfortunate side effect for the past 2 years. Apparently, whatever Forteo did to me, it is permanent, since the drug is long gone from my system.

In my own experience with simvastatin, not only did the prescribing doctor downplay the side effects, she also told me that my body had to “get used to the drug” when I complained about adverse effects. It’s been over 6 years since I stopped that drug, but muscular and neurological pain and other effects remain. Almost all of the doctors I’ve met only recognize the benefits of drugs regardless how questionable or minimal — not the adverse effects. Rewards and blind encouragement to prescribe drugs for any and all health conditions must stop soon.

I was prescribed 750 mg of Ciprofloxacin ( 2 x day for 10 days) for a suspected UTI. After the second pill I began having severe joint, tendon, muscle pain and twitching/jerking in my arms, legs and face. I went back to the pharmacy to told the pharmacist that my Achilles tendons, etc. hurt and she told I will need to keep taking it as all antibiotics will do this to me. Please follow your gut. Read the warning pamphlets carefully and don’t be afraid to go against your doctor or pharmacist if you are being injured. I am still dealing with all of these side effects today. I am slowly healing though.

do the doctors get paid by the drug companies to push their drugs?

I actually had to make a doctor mad because I would not take Fosomax for my bones. I had heard so many bad things about it, I thought they were going to cancel by insurance because I refused.

Next time I will just say ok and then not take something I am afraid of.

Thanks Evelyn

In July 2016 I was sent to Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore for a triple by-pass. After a week of terrible pain I then was in re-hab for several months. The doctor who sent me to JH put me on amiodarone. After staying on amiodarone for 6 months I called doctor’s office and expresse my concern on staying on the med so long but was told to “talk to the doctor when I come in for next appy”.

By February of 2017 I could hardly breathe so after a 7 day hospital stay the decided that I had pulmonary fibrosis – the pulmonolgist and my gp both believe the amiodarone caused it.

The result is that I am on oxygen 24/7. It’s heartbreaking to have this happen – feel like my cardiologist betrayed me.

I was put on Amiodarone after I had an attack of Afib, which set-off my defibulator in June ’15. By Sept I was all but on my knees because I couldn’t breath. Was admitted, and stayed 33 days in ICU! After 5 days in the ICU the Dr.s decided I had Acute Amiodarone Toxity. It took all my strength just to stand beside the bed.

So, it is December of 2017 as I write. I am still on oxygen, which I didn’t need before the big “A” attack. I have a few ‘Tics’, and other personal issues that I didn’t have before. I have come a VERY LONG way from what I was, and I believe that I will struggle with side effects for the rest of my life.

Our HOLY HEAVENLY FATHER’S Mercy is the ONLY reason I am alive; after 5 Dr.s told my wife of 41 years to prepare for my death that was soon to come. Church prayer, and a Large group of Christians that prayed, will always have my love. Respectfully Yours, John

I was getting early AM anxiety only in morning once I got up
It stopped. Dr. Put me on generic Lexapro. Took it for 2 weeks &
Could not stand side effects. Continual anxious very uncomfortable
feeling, palpations & insomnia. I don’t know if it would have stopped if I stayed on it longer but I could not stand it.

In the case of fluoroquinines, there’s a genetic element at work. But to find out if you carry it, you need to have genetic testing then get the SNPs sorted out, then find a functional medicine doctor or a geneticist who can interpret the results for you. I don’t know if it’s been proved that the genetic element is the ONLY one, but it’s certainly a big clue. And it could explain why many people have no problem taking these drugs but others – many in the medical world – are lifelong cripples after taking very tiny doses. The genetic flaw means that you can’t easily clear fluoride, and basically it just accumulates and you’re a victim of fluoride poisoning.

A related situation is the set of drugs which can never be stopped. There are a couple of a-fib medications in this category.

People’s Pharmacy just disclosed last week that low-dose aspirin has just joined this category. There must be millions of people taking 81mg daily due to casual remarks by a physician.

Zoloft is another drug with lifetime side effects you are never told about. It suppresses male ejaculation, leading to erectile difficulties due to psychological loss of confidence. Needless to say, this in turn leads to depression, the exact problem Zoloft was supposed to cure.

My son can’t walk, he is not steady since Tuesday, doctors, he had a painfull forehead on Sunday then high temperature later that day. Later on Monday I took him to a GP prescribed ponstan and Dilinct, I gave both before we went to bed, in the morning I was talking to him before going to work he looked fine. I was called by my brother telling me that he can’t walk, went home and tried to give him something to eat thinking that maybe he will be better, he started vomiting. I took him back to the GP he prescribed something to stop vomiting and 2 other medicines that I could not give because he was not keeping anything in. I rushed him to hospitality later that day still vomiting and unable to and I thought maybe he is nauseous because he is vomiting. Since then he has on drip while Doctors are trying ti find out what is the problem, after scan and tests they found that he has viral meningitis,they put him on antibiotics but they do not know why he is not sitting and walking I am frustrated,depressed because no one knows the reason if anyone can help or advise

I am experiencing several of the stated, potential side effects of Ciprofloxacin, fatigue, aching in joints and muscles, mild lightheadedness, head aches, and they became more intense this morning. I discontinued the medication with only one dose left, and wonder how long before the side-effects subside.

Taking primidone for 2 years then the ringing in my ears started. Had to stop taking the drug. It has been a week. Ringing is almost constant. Sometimes the volume goes down. It is torturing me. Help. I just want it to go away.

I was prescribed Onglyza (5 mg) in June, 2015, (for type2 diabetes) I developed a cough that would not go away and very sore and aching joints, especially in my shoulders, arms and wrists. Then I developed a severe rash on my chest, finally calling my doctor and giving the information stating that I could no longer take the medication.. It has been 6 months and I still have the aching joints that keep me awake at night..will it ever go away?

I recently had knee surgery I was put on mylexocan an inflammatory drug about 3 weeks of taking it my hands and feet swelled. I went to the emergency room the swelling was so bad I couldn’t get my rings off. They had to cut them off after blood work and other tests said it was a reaction to the medicine. Put me on a diuretic. Didnt help, went to my regular Dr. also said reaction put me on lasix. After a week and no change she did more blood work put me. on prednisone worked but from results of my blood work sent me to a dr for RA tested negative but positive for lupus. I was surprised because other than the swelling and stiffness which cane back after, I was off the prednisone. I dont have any other symptoms of lupus. He did more bloodwork still, not sure what I have. I still wonder if it was a reaction; I’ve been off the myloxican a month and a half.

Hi did your symptoms go away… in time I had swelling of knee and burning like skin 4 weeks now after stopping mobic.

I just recently had an episode of dizziness so went to my doc put me on stemsil to stop the dizziness but failed to mention the side effects you can get from them and lo and behold I’ve got side effects… I took them for three days will this side effect ever go away??

I took 5 mg of Abilify for 7 years off label to help with anxiety/depression. I was also taking Prozac Weekly. On my own, I discontinued the Abilify cold turkey because I was tired of some of the side effects I’d had for years, including flat affect and weight gain.
Within 2 weeks of discontinuing the Abilify, I developed extremely bothersome facial “tics” which included opening my eyes real wide, pulling my right lower lip down at the corner, head movements, and, with a vengeance, flexing my neck on the sides and back using large shoulder muscle straining, the latter causing me very painful muscle aches all day and evening until I could finally lie down in bed at night.
My Psychiatrist who had prescribed the Abilify said it probably held the ticks at bay for the 7 years I was on it. I don’t quite know what “tics” he’s talking about! He blamed it on OCD. (I have generalized anxiety disorder.) I therefore went to a Neurologist who specializes in tics. He put me on Lamictal and added Klonopin, neither of which helped. We discontinued Klonopin and tried Botox injections in my shoulder muscles, which did nothing, either.
He finally started me on Xenazine in December 2013, a medication for patients with Huntington’s Chorea. The medication, even though approved by the FDA, is still closely monitored by the Federal Government. Miracle of miracles, after titrating up the Xenaxine, I finally, after 1 1/2 years, have relief from my tics! They’re not completely gone but I can live with the very few I have. My Neurologist feels like either the Abilify caused the tics in the first place or the discontinuation of Abilify brought them on. (Abilify can cause tardive dyskinesia.) Whatever happened, I am so relieved to be on Xenaxine.

Over two years ago I took a blood thinner for about a month after cardiac ablation and it resulted in excruciating pain in my calves and thighs. I stopped it but the destruction wasn’t done. My muscles wasted away. My family Dr. was able to do acupuncture which stopped the wasting and brought some muscles back. I still have pain in these muscles though but not as bad.
The other thing Xarelto did to me was cause severe diarrhea. Two different prescription drugs, one from my OBGYN (after cervical cancer) and one from my family Dr. did not work. I finally found that Immodium and Pepto Bismo together would slow it down and often stop it.
I read about Metamucil on this site and tried it. Wow! It really helps. Now my daily regimen is to take the Metamucil in the morning with a probiotic (the brands I tried made no difference but the Primal Defense from Gardens of Life works) and another probiotiic in the afternoon. I can eat veggies now but sometimes I’ll still have a problem, but not as often.
I thank you folks for providing this site to educate us and make our lives more livable!

Unfortunately , and I can only speak for the Fluoroquinolones, it may only take one pill or one ear or eye drop to do irreparable damage so the fact that you stop it when you feel the onset of a symptom may not decrease your chances of getting any better. It also could takes days, weeks and months to even develop any of the ADRs affiliated with this group of antibiotics. Best to stay away from them altogether! Believe me, I am a living example of 17 years of major health issues due to Floxin and Cipro. Doctors just shake their heads and think I am nuts. They love their Fluoroquinolone drugs.

About 10 years ago my mother was prescribed Risperdal to manage bipolar illness, along with other medications she had been taking for several years.
She developed a “pill rolling tremor” in her hands, slurred speech, a shuffling gait, and anxiety that seemed to be getting worse every few days. During this time I just happened to attend a lecture about Parkinson’s Disease given by a nurse affiliated with a regional Parkinson’s center, and mentioned to her that my mother showed some of the same symptoms mentioned in the lecture. She strongly encouraged me to get my mother evaluated right away.
A few days later my mother expressed suicidal thoughts, so out of desperation, I reached out to the nurse and she helped to get my mother in for an evaluation by a neurologist in the Parkinson’s clinic just a few days later. It was very tricky to try to explain this to my mother due to her horrible anxiety, depression and manic behavior.
My mother did not have Parkinson’s but showed similar symptoms because the Risperdal blocked the dopamine in her brain, as it does in some patients, the doctor explained. As my mom’s anxiety and physical symptoms worsened, her psychiatrist continued to increase her dosage of Risperdal a total of 6 different times!
The neurologist consulted with her psychiatrist and she was weaned off the Risperdal, resulting in a disappearance of the symptoms. My mother’s life was likely saved. Be persistent…ask questions….don’t be afraid to follow a hunch!

I bitterly laugh at the oath the doctors take. They consistently do harm, sometimes physical harm and sometimes mental harm. It’s a sad joke on their patients.

Doctors are trained to get payed to treat you and, do surgery.

My mother-in-law, and an uncle were given drugs that caused them to have tardive dyskinesia for the rest of their lives. Worse yet, neither one of them should have ever been given Thorazine, because they were not psychotic. They both had physical diseases that were not being properly treated, but since they were seniors, they were prescribed all kinds of expensive drugs whether they needed them or not.
The elderly are cash cows for the medical establishment. Sad, but all too true.

After recent, and extremely unpleasant, experiences with the side, and lingering, effects of prescription drugs and anesthesia, I am convinced of the need for better information and warnings for human patients before they agree to use pharmaceuticals of any kind.
But how about the effects of these drugs in veterinary use? I’ll bet there’s not a pet adopter out there among fans of The People’s Pharmacy who hasn’t given courses of antibiotics to furry family members, and Metaclopramide us certainly a familiar name in drugs for pets, too. What happens in their (much smaller) bodies with prescription drugs? What can we do to help them as well as ourselves?
I’d love to listen to a PP program on the topic: now I’m not only concerned about myself and my human relatives, but about the other residents of the house, too.

I’m convinced that Effexor stays in your system forever. I haven’t taken it in over ten years, but I still get occasional lightning flashes in my head.

How difficult was it for you to go off of Effexor? I would like to go off but am fearful of the terrible physical and mental impact of stopping ( even under a physician’s care.)
Thank you!

I wonder when there will be a lawyer specialty for suing the medical community for FAILING to adequately notify patients of these prescription caused side effects. By now, the doctors should know the side effects.
I guess the Supreme Court will have to tell big Pharma that the little print listing that passes for warning on the pill boxes is inadequate for the average customer. I hope they will include the importers of overseas bad generics while they’re at it.

And Abilify was the number one drug in the USA for 2013 in terms of sales dollars ($6.4 billion). Thank God for Pharma!!

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