Basically, drug reactions are a major cause of suffering, hospitalization and death.
In 1994, researchers at the University of Toronto estimated on the basis of 39 different studies, that an average of 106,000 deaths in U. S. hospitals were due to drug reactions. The inevitable conclusion was that adverse drug reactions were common if not frequent, and notably more than was being officially or unofficially recognized.
Significantly, fatalities from adverse drug reactions were between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death. This variation was due to the margin of error in the study which would imply that on the basis of the higher estimate of 137,000 deaths, drug reactions ranked fourth behind heart disease (743,460 deaths), cancer (529,904), and stroke (150,108). For the lower estimate of 76,000 deaths, drug reaction fatalities would be the sixth leading cause, following pulmonary disease (101,077) and accidents (90,523).
The report, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included patients admitted to hospitals with adverse drug reactions and those reactions occurring after already being admitted. The study, however, did not include errors in administration, noncompliance with instructions and drug abuse! This is significant in that Iatrogenic causes of death (i.e. caused by medical examination or treatment, the mistakes of hospitals, doctors, and nurses), were not included, but which are themselves enormous!
Critics of the study have pointed out that “drugs also save countless lives, a fact that may be obscured when analyzing adverse reactions.” This latter statement, however, is not necessarily based on careful, unbiased and objective studies. Such studies are typically not conducted on the basis that it doesn’t need to be proven, whereas in reality the assumption that all legal drugs are beneficial in one way or another is simply unsupported by the evidence. It’s an AMA article of faith, but not necessarily a scientifically based one.
The Libertarian Party, a champion of individual rights in every area of life -- and thus a possibly less-than-totally-objective advocate -- weighed in with its own condemnation of legal drugs. In a press release, dated April 24, 1998, they reported:
NEWS FROM THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037
For release: April 24, 1998
For additional information:
George Getz, Press Secretary
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222
“Legal drugs kill 20 times more Americans than illegal drugs,
says embarrassing new study”
“WASHINGTON, DC -- ‘Doctors kill far more people every year than Drug Pushers do -- a surprising fact that should make sensible Americans start to question the War on Drugs,’ the Libertarian Party said today. Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that properly prescribed legal drugs kill 106,000 Americans every year -- 20 times more than illegal drugs do.
"‘Are politicians going to declare a War on Medicine?’ asked Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party chairman. ‘Of course not. So why are we spending $17 billion on the War on Drugs, arresting millions of people, and restricting civil liberties -- all to try to solve a problem that’s far less dangerous than modern medicine?’
“The study found that correctly prescribed medications claim 106,000 lives a year because of toxic reactions. By comparison, only 5,212 Americans die annually from illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. [emphasis added]
"‘This means that doctor-prescribed drugs kill 20 times more people every year than drugs peddled on street corners,’ said Dasbach. ‘Of course, more people take prescription medication than illegal drugs, so higher death totals are expected. But the point is that the health consequences of illegal drugs are vastly overstated by politicians -- apparently to justify the costly government program they call the War on Drugs.’
“In fact, Dasbach pointed out, the government admits that aspirin killed twice as many people last year as PCP and LSD combined! ‘But don’t expect a War on Aspirin,’ Dasbach said. ‘The government is less interested in protecting lives than in protecting the jobs of the government bureaucrats and law enforcement personnel who are on the Drug Prohibition payroll.
“‘For example, marijuana has caused no deaths, yet the government arrested 641,642 Americans last year on marijuana-related offenses, and is threatening to prosecute doctors who prescribe marijuana for victims of AIDS and cancer,’ he noted. The fact is, the real health threat comes not from drugs, but from drug prohibition, Dasbach said.
“‘As Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman says, 5,000 Americans are killed every year solely due to Prohibition-spawned violence -- meaning that outlawing drugs kills as many Americans every year as the drugs themselves,’ he said.
“‘Too many lives have been ruined by drugs, whether legal or illegal -- and we mourn a lost life, no matter what the cause,’ he said. ‘But when the government arbitrarily decides which drugs to outlaw, it transforms a personal tragedy into a national disaster and turns a medical problem into a moral crusade.
“‘Politicians who focus obsessively on the drug war -- while ignoring the fact that other medical problems are far more deadly -- have lost their grip on reality. As this new study makes clear, the War on Drugs has more to do with political posturing than with public health -- and that’s why it’s time to end it.’”
Despite the Libertarian Party’s agenda, the statistics speak for themselves. And when combined with the other disinherited step child of medicine... Iatrogenic (i.e. caused by medical examination or treatment), the pain, suffering, and death just goes on and on.
An old adage is that if you put your blind faith in doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies, you’re likely to end up in the hospital.
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2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]