Editorial Note: Following a redesign of the website in 2015, the Skin Zone mentioned in this article now works differently. You can search for skin related side effects in the Drugs A-Z section. Side effects can be reported using the main “Report a Side Effect” function.
Toronto, Ontario — RxISK.org, the first free independent website for researching and reporting prescription drug side effects, has just added a Skin Zone to highlight and collect data on the links between prescription drugs and our skin and nails.
“Crime TV fans know how easily drugs can be detected by skin and nail analysis,” says Dr. Dee Mangin, Data Based Medicine’s Chief Medical Officer. “However, in real life we often don’t make the connection between the prescription drugs we take and their effects on our bodies.”
Arsenic, the poison of choice for inheritance-minded spouses in the 19th century, was actually more commonly used in the cosmetic sense — to lighten skin color and whiten eyes. Unfortunately, one could easily get the dosage wrong and pay the ultimate price for beauty.
Today, skin-bleaching drugs are one of the biggest sellers in the world, and are linked with blood cancers such as leukemia and cancers of the liver and kidneys, as well as a severe skin condition called ochronosis, a form of hyper-pigmentation that causes the skin to turn a dark purple shade.
Oral contraceptives are an even bigger seller. However, many of these are advertised and sold for their beneficial effects on skin rather than for contraception. They can produce clearer skin, but, as a recent issue of Cosmopolitan reports in the article My Skin Was Addicted to the Pill, stopping them can cause rebound acne that no make-up can overcome.
Antibiotics used to treat acne can sensitize the skin to sunburn or can cause overpigmentation and nail bed lifting. Other antibiotics, contraceptives, and diuretics can also cause skin darkening. Blood pressure medications can also cause sensitivity to sunburn and other problems.
Skin side effects may not be seen as medically serious or life threatening and therefore less likely to be reported, but their effects can be devastating to an individual. “Your skin is the face you present to the world,” says Dr. Mangin. “So if there’s a link to one of the drugs you’re on, that’s important information for you to have and to share with others.”
The Skin Zone has been designed so that people can easily look up and report the effects of prescription drugs on their skin and nails.
There is currently no other forum for people around the world to share information like this with each other. “Doctors are trained to regard reactions like this as medically ‘mild’ and patients may not make the link to medications,” says Dr. Mangin.
“Until we pool our collective wisdom about the effects of prescription drugs on our skin and nails, and make it accessible, we will not be able to assess the risks and benefits of medications. This is what the Skin Zone is all about.”
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, as well as to RxISK, 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), based in Toronto, Canada. 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.
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