Drug Side Effects Kill Thousands Every YearDec 31, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
Medication reactions and drug side effects are killing thousands. In Great Britain, nearly 3,000 patients died in the past three years due to adverse reactions to drugs they thought would make them better, new figures reveal. The patients suffered allergic reactions to, or serious side effects from, medicines which proved fatal, according to that country’s official figures. Over 13,000 other patients needed long-term hospital treatment for the effects of their reaction. These patients survived their adverse events.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb, who obtained the statistics through Parliament, called for a full investigation of the problem, saying "This is a dangerously escalating problem, which is putting lives at risk and placing a big cost burden on the NHS. This situation will only get worse as the number of older people receiving a lot of medication increases in coming years. Doctors have a duty not to over-prescribe drugs, in a bid to meet government treatment targets on long-term conditions,” said Lamb who also indicated that he had written to the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, to urge an inquiry. Last year, 964 patients died because of suspected drug reactions, 203 after long-term hospital treatment. In 2005, over1,000 patients died from similar suspected reasons and in 2004, 861 died. A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which monitors all suspected adverse drug reactions in that country, said the number of ADR reports did not necessarily correlate with the number of deaths.
Meanwhile, a U.S. study indicates that, in the U.S., seniors represent a little more than 12 percent of the population, yet more than one-third of all serious adverse drug events, indicating a disproportionate share according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Adverse drug reactions and related deaths more than doubled from 1998 to 2005, according to the study. The FDA describes a serious adverse drug event as an adverse event that resulted in death, a birth defect, disability, hospitalization, or was life-threatening or required intervention to prevent harm. These occurrences are voluntarily reported to the FDA via their Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) also known as MedWatch reports which are sent to the FDA directly or through drug manufacturers, who are required to forward this information.
From the period in the U.S. study, a total of 467,809 serious adverse events were reported, a greater than two and a-half-fold increase with deaths increasing even more. The overall increase was four times greater than the growth in total U.S. outpatient prescriptions, which experienced an increase in the same period from 2.7 billion to 3.8 billion. A total of nearly 1,500 drugs were associated with adverse events. A disproportionate amount of pain medications and immune system modifying drugs were associated with death. Among the 15 drugs that were involved in fatal events, seven were pain medications and four had primary effects on the body’s immune system. In the serious, but not fatal, events, the most frequently identified medications were of more varied classes. The number of serious adverse events associated with 13 prominent biotechnology products grew more than 15-fold during the time frame studied.