Why Should I Be Concerned About Drug Side Effects?

Ben Thomas

An adverse drug reaction is about five times more likely to kill you than an automobile accident or AIDS.

FACT 1: Prescription drug reactions cause more than two million hospital admissions—every year in America.

FACT 2: More than 180,000 American patients die every year from taking their medications.

FACT 3: Prescription medication use is the third leading cause of death in America— dwarfing automobile accidents, AIDS, alcohol and illegal drug abuse, infectious disease, diabetes, and murder.

Leading Causes of Death in United States
SOURCES of Data: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA); links below.

“Thousands of patients die each year taking medication for minor medical problems.”

“Because of the inherent nature and risk of drugs, absolutely no drug is ever completely safe.”

ABOVE: Strand, R.D. Death by Prescription: The Shocking Truth Behind an Overmedicated Nation. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.

A group of doctors at the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) analyzed thirty years of details about adverse drug reactions documented in U.S. hospitals. Using very conservative analysis and excluding all questionable cases, in an effort to be as accurate as possible, the doctor-researchers found that more than 2.2 million Americans require hospitalization in one year because of serious reactions to medications. Even more disturbing was that more than 106,000 patients die per year because of properly prescribed drugs.

Now it gets worse. When you include both properly and improperly prescribed drugs, more than 180,000 American patients die every year from taking their medications.

Specifically, the JAMA report shows that ‘adverse drug events’ cause more than 180,000 deaths in America each year. Adverse drug events include both properly prescribed and improperly prescribed medications. Improper prescription events include both physician and patient errors, like prescription of the wrong drug, wrong dose, or wrong patient.

What does this mean for you? You and your loved ones are nearly five times more likely to die from a prescription drug than a car accident.

What can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones? Learn all you can about the use and inherent dangers of drugs. Many drug reactions are preventable if you learn to ask the right questions to your doctor and pharmacist, as discussed in the next article: “Stop Side Effects Before They Start.”

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