Prescribing Advice for GPs

An NHS Prescribing Advisers' Blog

Patient Leaflet on Side Effects

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority has published a leaflet for patients titled Taking Medicines - some questions and answers about side effects.

The leaflet answers some common questions about taking medicines and side effects, it also details the descriptions used to quantify the risk of side effects in information leaflets. The categories are as follows:

  • Very Common - affects more than 1 in 10 who take the medicine
  • Common - affects between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 who take the medicine
  • Uncommon - affects between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1,000 who take the medicine
  • Rare - affects between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000 who take the medicine
  • Very Rare - affects less than 1 in 10,000 who take the medicine

For example, if a side effect occurred at a rate of 1 in 1,000; if 1,000 people took the medication only 1 would get the that particular side effect and 999 patient would be unaffected.

Action: Clinicians should be aware of the leaflet and the descriptors used in information leaflets. Keeping a stock of the leaflets may be useful when explaining the likelihood of side effects.

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