Deaths and Injuries from Prescription Drugs Reach Record Levels

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a watchdog group, points out that the number of deaths (4,825) and injuries (21,000) from prescription drugs have reached record levels in the first quarter of this year, representing nearly triple the number of deaths in the last quarter.

The blood thinner heparin and the anti-smoking drug varenicline are the most dangerous, according to the statistics.

And where do these statistics come from? That is the worrying part, because they are probably underestimating the reality of the situation:

The data came from voluntary reports of adverse effects to the Food and Drug Administration, which made the data public after stripping information that identified victims. Because the reporting is voluntary, researchers have speculated that fewer than 10% of adverse events actually makes it into the system.

However, the article points out that since the dangers associated with heparin have been recognized, deaths and injuries have gone down. Varenicline is a different story:

Varenicline remains an ongoing problem, however, according to institute officials. Since the drug — sold in the United States by Pfizer Inc. under the brand name Chantix — was approved in 2006, it has been linked to 3,325 serious injuries and 112 deaths.

Some reports were linked to people attempting suicide or causing injury to themselves after using the drug, which can evoke serious psychiatric problems. Others were linked to blackouts, seizures or loss of consciousness, perhaps tied to sudden disturbances in heart rhythm…

…One possible explanation for the link might have been the success of the drug and the large number of people using it, the report said. But investigation showed that, during the quarter, varenicline accounted for more reports of serious injury than the top 10 best-selling prescription drugs combined.

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