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How Many Side Effects Does the Average Drug Have?

The average prescription drug comes with a list of 70 side effects, with several commonly prescribed drugs listing more than 100 potential side effects, making it difficult for physicians to choose which drugs to prescribe. A long list of side effects is not necessarily a cause for alarm, however. Researchers say that the long lists have less to do with dangerous toxicity than they have to do with manufacturers' fears of lawsuits.

More facts about side effects:

  • The types of medications with the greatest number of side effects include antidepressants, antivirals, medications for restless leg syndrome and medications for Parkinson's disease.

  • Among some of the more unsettling drug side effects are black, purple or green urine; hallucinations; "brain zaps," or feelings of electricity in the brain; permanent changes in eye color; and even compulsive gambling.

  • Generally speaking, drugs that are prescribed or given by ophthalmologists and dermatologists have the fewest side effects.

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