They are sometimes used interchangeably but adverse drug reaction means an unintended and undesired reaction to a medicine given at the correct dose. Any medicine can cause an adverse drug reaction. An adverse drug reaction can start soon after you take the medicine, or up to 2 weeks after you stop taking the medicine. Drug reactions can affect your entire body (systemic), or they can be limited to a specific organ. The skin is the most common area affected. You may have an itchy rash, swelling, or blisters. Systemic reactions can cause fevers, swelling of blood vessels, or a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
A side effect is a result of drug or other therapy in addition to or in extension of the desired therapeutic effect; usually but not necessarily, connoting an undesirable effect. Although technically the therapeutic effect carried beyond the desired limit (a hemorrhage from an anticoagulant) is a side effect, the term more often refers to pharmacologic results of therapy unrelated to the usual objective (a development of signs of Cushing syndrome with steroid therapy).
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