Published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 2006, this article written by A. Blenkinsopp and others, reviews the literature on patient-reported symptoms of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs), also described as troublesome side-effects to medications that warrant medical attention. They included seven studies for review from seven different countries. Their conclusion was that patient reporting of suspected adverse drug reactions has more potential benefits than drawbacks.
Some of the more specific findings from the studies were: patient and healthcare professional reports are of similar quality; there was some evidence that different ADRs are reported; new ADRs are reported; reported symptoms to SSRI antidepressants, e.g. Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, are not found in health care professional reports, implying a reluctance to report unusual psychiatric symptoms to physicians; some evidence that patients report ADR symptoms quicker; no evidence that reports result in distraction from signal detection, meaning they do not distract from ADR “flags” and overload the ADR reporting system.
In all, patient-reporting of ADRs is a reliable method for detecting probable ADRs which can lead to mitigating them and improving quality of life, and avoid unnecessary utilization of health care resources, in addition to lessening the risk for patient harms. However, in my experience, if people are not educated on what side-effects to monitor for, and if physicians do not acknowledge that ADRs are possibly occurring, especially some of the more unusual ADRs, then a large percentage are not addressed and lead to negative outcomes. Several other studies have validated this finding. Lastly, specific questions asked of the patient that may elucidate if an ADR is occurring should be included in every medication review and office visit. The reliability of this technique is greater than what one might think.