Influence of medications on taste and smell

World J Otorhinolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Mar 26;4(1):84-91. doi: 10.1016/j.wjorl.2018.02.005. eCollection 2018 Mar.


Medications frequently have chemosensory side effects that can adversely affect compliance with medical treatment regimens. Hundreds of drugs have been reported to induce unpleasant tastes and/or odors as well as altered chemosensations when administered alone or in combination with other medications. Some chemosensory complaints are due to the sensory properties of the drug itself such as aversive bitter and metallic tastes. However, most chemosensory side effects of drugs are due to alterations in the transduction pathways, biochemical targets, enzymes, and transporters by the offending medications. Studies of chemosensory perception in medicated older individuals have found that taste and smell loss is greatest for those consuming the largest number of prescription drugs. There are no standard treatments for drug-induced chemosensory disorders because each drug has unique biological effects. However, there are a few treatment options to ameliorate chemosensory alterations including addition of simulated flavors to food to compensate for losses and to override offending tastes and smells.

Keywords: Bitter taste; Chemosensory side effects of drugs; Drug–drug interactions; Metallic taste; Smell disorders; Taste disorders.

Publication types

  • Review