Editorial Note: Following a redesign of the website in 2015, the Symptoms on Stopping Zone mentioned in this article now works differently. You can search for withdrawal related side effects in the Drugs A-Z section. Side effects can be reported using the main “Report a Side Effect” function.
Toronto, Canada — RxISK.org, the first free, independent website for researching and reporting prescription drug side effects, has added a Symptoms on Stopping (SoS) Zone to highlight and collect data on the side effects patients can experience when stopping a medication.
“While many of us associate withdrawal with stopping things like cigarettes, heroin, or sleeping pills, we may not realize that commonly used prescription drugs for conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, indigestion, and depression have withdrawal effects that can range from mild rebound symptoms to life-threatening crises”, says RxISK Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dee Mangin.
Users can report their experience and receive a personalized RxISK Report that assesses whether their symptoms are linked to stopping their medication, which they can take to their doctor or pharmacist.
Dr. Dee Mangin says, “For example, when stopping a proton-pump inhibitor like Losec for indigestion, there is a rebound of acid production in the stomach that can cause indigestion far worse than the original symptoms. This is just a rebound effect and will settle; however, it can be mistaken to mean that the patient still needs the drug. Similarly, stopping diuretics abruptly can cause rebound edema. And stopping some antidepressants can cause such severe physical and psychological withdrawal effects that it is impossible for the person to ever stop the drug completely.”
RxISK CEO Dr. David Healy says, “Withdrawal symptoms from prescription drugs can persist for years. Symptoms can range from mild and easily managed to horrifying and life-changing disability.”
Healy believes every patient should have this information before he or she makes the decision to start a medication. “We are very good at starting drugs but not as good at stopping them. This is why we encourage people to go to RxISK and look up a drug before filling their scrip. If you have concerns, you can then have a more informed conversation with your doctor or pharmacist before you start something you may not be able to stop easily or quickly.”
Dr. Healy says this is especially important for women of child-bearing age who may not have the luxury of time to successfully wean themselves off a prescription drug before trying to start a family. “In an age where many women will abstain from alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, soft cheeses, or uncooked meats if they are thinking about becoming pregnant, would they consent to taking a prescription drug if they knew the risk of birth defects or of becoming hooked?”
Stopping a medication can also cause positive effects. Stopping can make you aware of how much better you feel off a drug that was causing problems you didn’t recognize at the time. This is a powerful way to uncover drug side effects.
Dr. Mangin says that for some patients, especially older patients, the burden of the side effects of multiple medications can be greater than that of any illness they are designed to treat. In these cases, a considered withdrawal or dose reduction (sometimes called de-prescribing) can reduce death and illness from drug side effects and interactions.
Dr. Healy says the main problem is that there is precious little data on how long withdrawal symptoms can last and how best to treat [?] them. “We need people to report their experiences so that there is better information to guide patients and doctors — so that symptoms on stopping medications are not mistaken for other things, like a re-emergence of the underlying disorder or even a new illness.
“But we’ll only know this if patients and doctors report what is happening. This is why we’ve created the Symptoms on Stopping Zone — to provide an easy way to research prescription drug withdrawal symptoms and report any side effects.”
RxISK.org allows users to enter the name of a prescription drug and see the side effects that have been reported to the FDA since 2004, for more than 35,000 drug names from 103 countries. The data is presented in tables, tag clouds, heat maps, and interactive graphs, showing what’s happening with other people taking the same drug around the world.
Users can then select the effect(s) they are experiencing and click on Report a Drug Side Effect to complete a report. They get a personalized RxISK Report linking their symptoms and meds, which they can take to their doctor or pharmacist to facilitate a better treatment conversation. This will also add their anonymized experience to the RxISK database so that others can benefit from this information.
RxISK.org is owned and operated by Data Based Medicine Americas Ltd. (DBM). DBM’s founders have international reputations in early drug-side-effect detection and risk mitigation, pharmacovigilance, and patient-centered care. Although drug side effects are known to be a leading cause of death and disability, less than 5% of serious drug side effects are reported. DBM’s mission is to capture this missing data directly from patients through RxISK’s free drug side effect reporting tool and use this data to help make medicines safer for all of us.