Drug Side Effects in Britain Killed 8,000 in Last DecadeMar 24, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP British health officials say that defective drugs have killed thousands of people in that country in the last 10 years. Figures reveal the startling fact that over 8,000 people have died in the past decade due to medications meant to help them. Last year alone, there were 1,031 deaths linked to adverse drug reactions, the highest figure yet, up from 447 in 1997. Over the past decade, 8,077 deaths were reported. And, nearly 42,000 other patients were hospitalized after suffering either harmful side effects or serious allergic reactions to prescription drugs and other medications. The number of deaths from adverse drug reactions, negative responses to medicines due to medical error or side effects, has more than doubled since 1997, rising by 131 percent.
It costs Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) about £466million annually to treat those who respond badly to medication and figures released yesterday reveal that the annual number of adverse reactions since 1997 has risen by 30 percent, up from 16,627 to 21,600.
Meanwhile, the number of reports of prolonged hospitalizations—prolonged meaning that the patient averaged around eight days in the hospital—rose from 2,484 to 4,545, according to figures revealed in answer to Parliamentary questions. The total for the past ten years was 41,935. This period also saw Great Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency and the Commission for Human Medicines improve their systems for registering and analyzing incidents. In response, Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said, "There may be some improvements in reporting, but these figures show a worrying trend towards more serious drug reactions leading to hospitalisation and a sharp increase in the number of deaths.” He added that, “This warrants further investigation, but clearly indicates that, alongside the benefits of new drug treatments, we must have an improved system of patient safety. The Government's National Patient Safety Agency has been beset with problems. Ministers must see patient safety as their top priority. Labour's obsession with financial and waiting time targets still gets in the way of the right set of priorities for patients."
Minister for Public Health Dawn Primarolo said adverse drug reaction reports are collected nationwide and cover all medicines, not just prescription drugs, including over-the-counter sales, herbal medicines, and unlicensed drugs. But she admitted the yellow card scheme by which reports are submitted "is associated with an unknown level of under-reporting." A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency said it had reformed its system in recent years to encourage more reports from doctors, healthcare professionals, and patients.
Primarolo added that, "They are all taking a proactive role in the safety of medicines by reporting adverse drug reactions to us in order to ensure we can analyse the trends. As a result, the number has gone up. Where necessary, we will issue extra warnings—but we mustn't forget the system also allows us to determine those drugs whose safety records mean we can move them from prescription only to pharmacy medicines." She also said the total of adverse drug reactions does not equate to the number of patients involved, because some might report two or three reactions to a drug.