Are prescription drugs our friend or our foe? I would like you to answer this question, but before you answer this question, please consider the following information first.
Reputable research has shown that prescription drugs taken as prescribed are the leading cause of death in America, killing more people every year than AIDS, alcohol, and automobile accidents combined. I am sure that there are certain circumstances in which medication is helpful and possibly life saving; however, the majority of the time, the “cure” is worse than the disease. This concern is expressed in a quote from JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), 1998; 279:1200 and 1216 which states, “Medications, potentially life-saving when used against illness, also can be dangerous and sometimes lethal. In this analysis the investigators determine the proportion of patients hospitalized in the United States who are affected by serious or fatal drug reactions defined as a noxious, unintended, or undesired effect of a drug that occurs at therapeutic doses. The overall rate of serious adverse drug reactions (ADR’s) was 6.7% of hospitalized patients.” The authors estimated that “in 1994, over 2,216,000 hospitalized patients had serious ADR’s and 106, 000 had fatal ADR’s, making these reactions the fifth leading cause of death.” So as to eliminate confusion, the above statistics are different than the third cause of death statistic which is not in hospitals, but rather prescription drugs taken as prescribed outside of hospitals.
The number of iatrogenic deaths, deaths caused by medical error, is staggering. Listed below are a few examples:
1. Medication Errors in Hospitals Deaths Per Year 7,000
2. Medical Errors in Hospitals Deaths Per Year 20,000
3. Unnecessary Surgery Deaths Per Year 12,000
4. Drug Adverse Events Deaths Per Year 106,000
Acording to USA TODAY, May 2, 2006, these figures may be VERY conservative. USA TODAY is quoted as saying, ”Studies suggest the FDA’s adverse events reporting systems database captures only 1% to 10% of drug-induced side-effects and deaths, maybe even less than 1%,” says clinical pharmacologist Alastair J.J. Wood, an Associate Dean at Vanderbelt Medical School in Nashville. So the real number of cases is almost certainly much higher.
Finally, I present to you A List of the Best-Selling Drugs in the U.S. (as it appeared in the online version of the New York Times 9/30/04).
These are the top selling drugs in the United States in 2003, their annual sales, what each treats, and the manufacturer. The 2003 data contains the most recently audited figures available.
1. Lipitor, $6.8 billion, cholesterol, Pfizer Inc.
2. Zocor, $4.4 billion, cholesterol, Merck & Co.
3. Prevacid, $4.0 billion, heartburn, TAP Pharmaceutical Products Inc.
4. Procrit, $3.3 billion, anemia, Johnson & Johnson
5. Zyprexa, $3.2 billion, mental illness, Eli Lilly & Co.
6. Epogen, $3.1 billion, depression, Pfizer Inc.
7. Nexium, $3.1 billion, heartburn, Merck & Co.
8. Zoloft, $2.9 billion, depression, Pfizer Inc.
9. Celebrex, $2.6 billion, arthritis, Pfizer Inc.
10. Neurontin, $2.4 billion, epilepsy, Pfizer Inc.
11. Advair Diskus, $2.3 billion, asthma, GlaxoSmithKline PLC
12. Plavix, $2.2 billion, blood clots, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
13. Norvasc, $2.2 billion, high blood pressure, Pfizer Inc.
14. Effexor XR, $2.1 billion, depression, Wyeth
15. Pravachol, $2.0 billion, cholesterol, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
16. Risperdal, $2.0 billion, mental illness, Johnson & Johnson
17. Oxycontin, $1.9 billion, pain, Perdue Pharma
18. Fosamax, $1.8 billion, osteoporosis, Merck & Co.
19. Protonix, $1.8 billion, gastrointestinal reflux disease, Wyeth 20.Vioxx, $1.8 billion, arthritis, Merck & Co.
After reading this list and concidering all that I have shared with you, ask yourself the question: Is the pharmacutical industry concerned about financial gain or providing solutions for disease? You be the judge.