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Prescription Drugs – the Number Four Killer

A statistical review and study by the University of Toronto of deaths in hospitals in the US showed that prescription drugs caused in excess of two million persons confined to hospitals to suffer a serious bad drug reaction over a one year period.  Over 100,000 of those persons studied died as a direct consequence of the drugs! 

It was shown that seventy-five percent of these mortalities were because of the toxic effect of the drugs and not because of any allergic reaction.  The study omitted deaths due to errors causing overdoses of drugs and errors in dispensing the drugs.  If these statistics had been counted, it is estimated that another 100,000 deaths annually would have to be added into the total. 

The clinical researchers at the University of Toronto came to the conclusion that death caused by prescription drugs in hospitals is the fourth leading killer in the USA following strokes, cancer and heart attacks.  We must ask ourselves how many more deaths are caused by prescription drugs annually outside of the arena of the hospitals which are never reported.  These are disturbing facts.

Source of information: Jason, et al. (Lazarou et al), Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), Volume 279. April 15, 1998, pages 1200 - 05. Also Bates, David W., Drugs and Adverse Drug Reactions: How Worried Should We Be? JAMA, Volume 279. April 15, 1998, pages 1216 - 17.


Medical Errors Number 3 Cause of Death

A stunning article appeared in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) which is the premier medical journal.  It was written and researched by Dr. Barbara Starfield, M.D., MPH a researcher at John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.  Her statistics show that the third most frequent cause of death in the US is due to medical errors.  The article was printed in JAMA, vol. 284, #4, July, 26, 2000.

The report counted 2,000 deaths annually from surgeries that were not necessary.  There were 7,000 deaths each year from errors in medications that were dispensed in hospitals.  20,000 deaths per year occurred from other errors in hospitals.  80,000 deaths were logged as the result of infections that were contracted while patients were in hospitals.  106,000 deaths annually occurred as the result of medications that were properly prescribed but nonetheless resulted in fatal complications.  All tallied, this makes death by physician the number three killer in the United States.

An article appearing in the British Medical Journal in June, 2000, reported that the rate of death fell substantially in Israel for the 3 months that physicians were out on strike.  In Bogata, Columbia, a physician’s strike in 1976 lasting fifty-two days produced a drop in the rate of death of 35%.  In the county of Los Angeles, also in 1976, doctors on strike produced an 18% drop in the mortality rate.

The author's brother-in-law, while he was in medical school, remarked to the author, "Don't every have any surgery unless your life depends on it."


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