Slowly the public is learning what physicians have known for many decades. Drugs cause complications. Yes, sometimes pharmaceuticals are terrific and occasionally save lives. However, the evidence is quite overwhelming that prescription drugs kill well over 100,000 people each year-that was admitted in the JAMA in 2000. This means it almost certainly is 200,000, as often the disease for which the drug was given gets blamed for death. Vioxx is the recent tip of the iceberg bigger than the Titanic. Premarin got less publicity, even though in the long run it probably killed more people. Just consider one month of FDA ''alerts'' from December 8 through January 5:
- Tretinon increases risk of toxic syndrome
- Lopinavir/Ritonavir creates complications with phosphodieserase-5 inhibitors
- Nizatidine is associated with increased allergies
- Etanercept may increase lymphoma
- Infixmab increases liver damage and pneumonia
- Lovenox is contraindicated in patients sensitive to benzyl alcohol
- Somatotropin may result in fatalities
- Roferon-A may cause depression and damage the heart
- Aleve may increase heart disease
- Iresa FAILS to prolong survival in lung cancer (wonder how many it killed??)
- Strattera may damage the liver
- Celebrex increases heart attacks
- Sarafem may worsen depression and increase suicide. Surprise—ALL antidepressants have this potential!
- Bextra causes complications after heart surgery
- Procrit may cause problems in those with anemia, the one indication for the drug
- Two anti-AIDS drugs exacerbate infections in AIDS patients
- Adavir Diskus increases risk of death in asthmatics
- Levaquin and Floxin increase peripheral nerve damage
- Infant Advil causes stomach bleeding
An ''average'' month? Just wait until the huge push on statin drugs catches up. Vioxx and Premarin will seem minor. I predict a massive increase in cardiac death, not to mention liver failure and muscle weakness, etc. I recently saw a 92 year old woman who is going blind from Femera being given for aymptomatic breast cancer. Death from the cancer seems far less a problem than potential total disability at that age. I also predict widespread B12 deficiency from all the acid-inhibitors being pushed and gulped. Personally I believe cancer chemotherapy kills many more than it cures.
What is the answer? Insist on knowing all the risks of any drug! Learn the potential success rate and all the complications, often called ''side effects''. Recognize that all drugs are potentially toxic to some body function and all carry the potential of death.
What is the risk without the drug? Sometimes drugs cure and are necessary to save life. It's the odds you want to know before you gamble on taking them!