Monday, March 12, 2012

Taken as prescribed, medications kill 100,000 people per year

What use do you make of your physician?” said the king to Molière one day. “We chat together, sire; he gives me his prescriptions; I never follow them, and so I get well.”

The 100,000 per year body count  is for the United States only. Medications, properly prescribed and properly taken, kill twice the number of people per day than car accidents do. The unsettling death statistics from prescribed meds is not something we hear much about. Yet many, if not most of us, simply take the medications we are given and probably take more than we need. It's one thing if a person has a life threatening illness or condition and needs the medication in order to survive. But many people are taking prescription medications that they could shed if they changed their habits and did a bit of research into alternatives.

I got to thinking about this today when I visited a friend of mine in the hospital. She'll be 90 years of age this month. She loves to tell me what her mother told her -- to always buy the best food, because otherwise, instead of paying the grocer, you'll be paying the doctor. She eats butter, not margarine. Up until a few weeks ago, my friend was on no prescription meds. None. She has a heart condition that gave her occasional problems in the past, but she always refused meds for the problem.  Today, the doctor informed her in my presence that she will need to take the meds he had prescribed her the rest of her life. After he left, she complained bitterly to me that she hated being on "these things." I congratulated her for managing to dodge these bullets up until now, that she probably was healthier for having done so, and suggested that taking the meds now for the rest of her life was a small price to pay for avoiding landing back in the hospital. By all indications, she should be able to resume her normal activities within a month. But, she will be hounding her doctor to keep the medications to a minimum, I can guarantee it.

My favorite doctor, the one I prefer to go to avoid health problems in the first place, is Andrew Saul, Ph.D. When people protest that vitamins, not just meds, kill people, thereby implying that vitamins are inherently dangerous, Saul always asks the question, "where are the bodies?" He has done extensive data gathered from 61 U.S. poison control centers, which reported a mere 10 deaths linked to vitamins over the past 25 years.

Saul also recounts that “More than 1.5 million Americans are injured every year by drug errors in hospitals, nursing homes and doctor's offices, a count that doesn't even estimate patients' own medication mix-ups. . . (O)n average, a hospitalized patient is subject to at least one medication error per day.” 

Just as I was about to push the publish button for this post, I was delighted to see that there is a new website about prescription medication side effects that contains a database for logging adverse effects.  The medical and research team behind this venture includes Dr. David Healy and author Robert Whitaker, and many other prominent names in pharmacology and other disciplines.

ALGERNON MONCRIEFF: The doctors found out that Bunbury could not Bunbury died.

LADY BRACKNELL: He seems to have great confidence in the opinion of his physicians. I am glad, however, that he made up his mind at the last to some definite course of action, and acted under proper medical advice. (From Act III of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde)

The humorous quotes on this page were directly cribbed from Andrew Saul's website:

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