Can I report a side effect and not discuss it with my doctor?

It is recommended you always talk to your doctor; however there are some reasons why you may hesitate to discuss the drug reaction with your doctor. It is up to you; you are responsible for your own health.

  • Failure of healthcare professionals to listen to complaints about possible side effects, or a lack of confidence that a report would be submitted are often cited as key motivations for patients to report themselves without discussing the issue with their doctor* ;

  • Research show that patients are more likely to report when a side effect ends, as it represents a real relief. Healthcare professionals are prone to report a side effect as soon as they see it, but they do not systematically make a follow-up report when it ends;

  • Healthcare professionals tend to focus on serious side effects and less on mild ones, which can still negatively impact your daily life. For example, if you suffer from loose stools, not exactly diarrhoea, few doctors will want to report it. But for you, due to the impact on your daily life (you need to stay near toilets at all times) you consider it is an important effect that you wish to report;

  • Not all topics can be easily discussed, even with healthcare professionals you know and trust. Intimacy and very private issues are delicate to address during a visit. On the contrary, reporting on a web site something private, in relation to your sexual life, loss of libido, for example, could be easier for you;

  • There are things that we as patients do that we do not necessarily want our healthcare professionals to know about. Ideally we should always be able to discuss everything with our doctors, and easily, but this is not always the case. For example, it can be difficult to admit to your doctor that you took three doses of a painkiller instead of one, because the pain you were experiencing was too intense. Or if you self-medicated based on advice from a friend or a relative, you may fear offending your doctor and thus be reluctant to disclose the information.
    It is also sometimes delicate to mention the use of illicit products. With self-reporting tools, anonymity / confidentiality help the patient reporting in such circumstances;
  • The patient’s lifestyle is better described by the patient himself/herself: the use of natural, alternative, traditional, complementary medicines, alcohol consumption, any diet, herbal products taken, over-the-counter products; physical activity; life-style… all this information matters, and can be better described by the patient directly.

These reasons are perfectly sound and valid. Even if the best situation is to inform your doctor and expect them to report the side effect, you may opt to report it as well. When doing so, you can opt to declare the name of your doctor; this will help pharmacovigilance authorities if they need to contact your doctor for further action, or if they need more information to understand what happened.

*A Decade of Safety-Related Regulatory Action in the Netherlands. A Retrospective Analysis of Direct Healthcare Professional
Communications from 1999 to 2009
Peter G.M. Mol,1,2 Sabine M.J.M. Straus,2,3 Sigrid Piening,1 Jonie T.N. de Vries,1
Pieter A. de Graeff1,2 and Flora M. Haaijer-Ruskamp1
Drug Saf 2010; 33 (6): 463-474


Page created: 08/11/2012
Page last updated: 07/11/2014
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