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June 17, 1961


Author Affiliations

New York City

JAMA. 1961;176(11):945-946. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040240051019

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With increasing frequency in my current reading, especially on drugs and their application, I encounter the term side-effects; sometimes as the heading of a section in papers in which there is no further discussion of other undesirable effects, sometimes as a subheading under toxic effects, most often in simple summary statements such as, "Toxic effects were rare; side-effects were common."

Side-effects seem to cause more anguish to me than to their victims or to the authors of papers I read, yet I do not believe I am unduly sensitive. I am disturbed because I am not certain what the term really means in each case. Side-effects seem so innocent that in most papers there is a tendency to do nothing about them beyond counting. Sometimes "undesirable" side-effects are enumerated as if to imply that there might also be some "desirable" side-effects. But then I also read about "serious side-effects." Occasionally

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