Linguistic toxicity

Probably not what you would have guessed.

From Gina Kolata’s “Side Effects? These Drugs Have a Few.”, NYT Week in Review for June 5:

In a new paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. [Jon] Duke [of Indiana University] and two colleagues report that the average drug label lists 70 possible side effects and some drugs list more than 500. “This was beyond even what I’d expected,” he said.

… In 2006, troubled by the ever-expanding lists of side effects, Dr. Jerry Avorn and Dr. William Shrank of Harvard Medical School wrote a paper in The New England Journal of Medicine calling it “linguistic toxicity.”

Thought these lists were getting longer? Apparently they are.


2 Responses to “Linguistic toxicity”

  1. Rick Sprague Says:

    500 side effects! Are there even that many distinct symptoms listed in the DSM?

    At some point, I expect the problem will be corrected via a consumer (probably class action) suit based on the Gricean Maxim of Relevance. It isn’t due diligence if your warning fails to convey the actual degree of risk, especially for drugs that are necessary to preserve life. I’m confident there are federal courts that would accept such a test case. If I were a drug manufacturer, I’d already be grouping these symptoms into risk ranges, with a statement that probabilities are subject to change with further experience.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    I really should have used the title “Overdosing on Language”.

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