Friday, September 14, 2007

Increase In Death Rates and Side Effects From Prescription Drugs

If there weren't enough already, here are a couple more good reasons to go holistic in your healthcare choices: Deaths from drug reactions nearly tripled in the seven years from 1998 to 2005, and (this is so shocking I'm almost speechless) over 90% of the adverse reactions people report to their doctors are never passed along to the FDA or the drug companies, possibly because your doctor is biased toward the drug companies that are giving him or her gifts and other perks.

The two articles below arrived in my mailbox this week….two in one week!….that discuss the deadly dangers of prescription drugs that no one is talking about except the families of the deceased.

If you don’t do anything else, please….Please….keep the following web address handy and write to the FDA yourself if you or a loved one experiences adverse side effects from prescription medications. The life you save may be your own. MedWatch: The FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

Analysis: Deaths From Drug Reactions Up
By LINDSEY TANNER – September 12, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) — Reports of dangerous side effects and deaths from widely used medicines almost tripled between 1998 and 2005, an analysis of U.S. drug data found.

The number of deaths and serious injuries from prescription and over-the-counter drugs climbed from 34,966 to 89,842 during the study of reports to the Food and Drug Administration.

Potent narcotic painkillers including Oxycontin, sold generically as oxycodone, were among 15 drugs most often linked with deaths in the study. Drugs frequently linked with serious nonfatal complications included insulin, the arthritis drugs Vioxx and Remicade, and the antidepressant Paxil.

The report adds to recent criticism of FDA oversight on drug safety, including its handling of serious problems connected with Vioxx, which was removed from the market in 2004.

"This growing toll of serious injury shows that the existing system is not adequately protecting patients and underscores the importance of recent reports urging far-reaching legislative, policy and institutional changes," the authors said.

The analysis appears in this week's issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. Its authors are Thomas Moore and Michael Cohen of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit educational group that analyzes drug safety issues; and Dr. Curt Furberg of Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

They analyzed excerpts of reports on serious side effects received by the FDA between January 1998 and December 2005. A total of 467,809 serious complications were found. Reported deaths nearly tripled, rising from 5,519 to 15,107.

A disproportionate number of complications occurred in elderly patients. Women were more often victims than men, 55.5 percent compared to 45.5 percent. Children were involved in 7.4 percent of the problems.

The FDA issued a statement saying it is aware of the growing number of reported problems and takes them seriously, but the reason for the increase "is not completely known."

"While some of this has to do with the increasing number of prescriptions, there are clearly other factors responsible for this increase, such as the increase in public attention to drug safety, and use of the Internet to make it easier for the public to submit," Dr. Gerald Dal Pan of the FDA's surveillance and epidemiology office said in the statement.

Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and frequent FDA critic, said the report is another indication that the FDA's review of drugs already on the market "must be rigorous and timely."

Why Doctors Often Dismiss Drug Side Effects

Patients’ concerns about drug side effects are often shrugged off by their doctors, according to a survey of 650 patients who were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.

Statins, such as Lipitor and Zocor, are common drugs with widely known side effects that include liver damage, muscle problems, memory and mood changes, and more. In the case of muscle problems, if the side effect is not recognized it can progress to a potentially fatal condition called rhabdomyolysis.

Nonetheless, patients who responded to the survey said that they had to initiate a discussion about side effects with their doctor, and when they did:

47 percent said their doctors dismissed their muscle or cognitive problems, and said they were not statin-related

51 percent with a type of nerve pain called peripheral neuropathy said their doctors denied a connection to the drugs

32 percent said their doctors denied a connection between their symptoms and statins

29 percent said their doctors "neither endorsed nor dismissed the possibility of symptom link to statins"

Rather than attributing the patients complaints to the drugs, many doctors instead blamed the “normal aging process” or denied the symptoms entirely. Aside from not addressing the health concern in the patient, this ignorance toward a potential adverse drug reaction (ADR) means that no “adverse event report” is being given to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Side effects are already underreported by 90 to 99 percent, according to one Harvard Medical School expert, and the FDA relies heavily on such reports to gauge a drug’s safety once it hits the market.

In short, the survey suggests that the FDA is missing out on a wealth of ADRs because doctors are not recognizing them in patients.

The study’s authors believe that statin-related side effects are not the only one’s being missed.

They suggest that many other drug side effects are also being ignored. The researchers speculated that doctors’ tendencies to ignore drug side effects may be due to the powerful ad campaigns touting medications’ benefits and downplaying side effects.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

I strongly agree with many of the posters on this article that doctors should not be made scapegoats to this unfortunate finding. Most physicians are intelligent, well intentioned individuals who truly believe that they are dong the best they possibly can for their patients. They are clueless that they are merely pawns in the system that is spending tens of billions of dollars EVERY year to manipulate and deceive them into believing drugs and surgery are the best solution for chronic degenerative health conditions.

When you think about it for awhile it is not that much of a stretch since it certainly true for acute traumas, all they had to do was extend that view to degenerative diseases and when you have tens of billions to invest in purchasing the best marking minds on the planet, this is a relatively easy change to achieve. The results speak for themselves, the drug companies have been fabulously successful in capturing the minds of logic of most of the brightest and educated professionals our country has ever seen.

BUT, they have only done this temporarily. The Internet will change all that. This site is helping to educate consumers and health professionals alike about the fraud and deception. So many physicians are deceived that they are not at all motivated to listen to their patients' concerns about the medications they’re taking. This is particularly tragic when you consider that prescription drugs result in more than 700,000 visits to the emergency room in the United States every year.

It is also a shame that doctors are so quick to interrupt their patients as it may be only have about 23 seconds to state your concerns before your doctor will interrupt you, which may at least partly explain why most patients had to initiate the drug side effects conversation, or not have it at all.

Physicians certainly do have some responsibility here, particularly in being familiar with, and open to, the fact that drugs often cause side effects (and sometimes strange ones at that).

Drug Companies Are Influencing Your Doctor

In the United States an estimated 80,000 drug company representatives, backed by more than $19 billion of industry's combined annual promotional budgets, are visiting doctors every day.

These visits are influencing your doctor, essentially biasing him or her in favor of drugs.

Drug companies do not stop there. They spend millions each year to influence Congress, and similar amounts to influence YOU (via TV commercials, magazine ads, and the like) to ask your doctor specifically for their drug, the way you might ask for a particular brand of food in the supermarket.

Only a very well-informed, open-minded physician will be able to withstand this brainwashing (that actually starts way back in medical school)!

What can you do?

You are making the first major step already; you’re getting informed about what’s really going on.

YOU now know that if you suspect a drug is causing you a side effect, you must be sure that your doctor does not dismiss it. If he or she refuses to acknowledge it, you must seek out another doctor who will. As many Vital Votes readers have also pointed out, you can make a difference by printing out informative articles from and elsewhere, and giving them to your doctor.

Doctors are only human, and many will be very receptive to the information contained in these pages.As the Washington Post article points out, you can also report drug side effects to the FDA directly (regardless of whether or not your doctor does), and I urge you to do so if you’ve experienced any.

Finally, my advice for your health and wellness holds true in this circumstance as well; you can reduce your reliance on the fatally flawed medical system (and thereby your risks of drug side effects) by eating the right foods for your nutritional type, exercising, and relieving stress with a tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique.


Geraldine said...

I so agree with this post....I would love to see a drug free (or as close as possible) world. So much suffering for humans and other animals could be avoided, if this was the case.

I am glad you are keeping people informed M, your posts are thoughtful and always educational.

I am back to blogging, finally.

Huggs, G

Michelle said...

Hi Geraldine,

Welcome Back!!!

Yes, the whole prescription drug thing is scary. I met a woman today who was mis-diagnosed and put on a drug she did not need and should not have been taking.

Now, she can't be weaned off due to the awful side-effects she gets from Not taking the's messed up her brain chemistry.

The more people can employ holistic healing methods, the better.