Pills That Kill

As an M.D., I’ve been thoroughly trained to believe that drugs—both prescription and over-the-counter—are the best option for patients. After all, they can treat everything from an infection to heart disease to depression. And they often do so quickly, which means that both doctors and their patients are happy. But there’s just one problem. These miracles of modern medicine aren’t necessarily safe.

The truth is that an estimated 106,000 hospitalized patients die each year from adverse drug reactions. And these are drugs that are properly prescribed and properly administered. More than two million people suffer serious drug-related side effects. According to an American Medical Association publication, the news is even more dire. This report notes that prescription drugs kill as many as 198,815 people annually and put another 8.8 million in the hospital. This means that only cancer and heart disease kill more patients than drugs.

Drug Safety Remains Uncertain

How can this happen? I know that many of you assume that the government ensures the safety of all the drugs that hit the market. And they do . . . but only to a point. Before it approves any new prescription medicine, the FDA requires tests for safety and efficacy. But these tests are relatively short, typically lasting no longer than six months. And they often include small numbers of participants. Consequently, a drug's safety remains uncertain until it has been on the market for many years. This point was driven home by a study several years ago that tracked the warnings and recalls of prescription drugs after they had been made available to consumers. Nearly one out of every five new prescription drugs demonstrated a serious side effect that had not been apparent in the pre-approval testing phase.

Propulsid, Rezulin, Vioxx – Beware!

Some of the drugs in this study initially carried black box warnings—the strongest cautionary labels the FDA requires—and they were eventually withdrawn from the market as more and more adverse effects were reported. The antacid Propulsid, for example, was withdrawn six years after it came on the market because it had harmful effects on the heart when prescribed with other drugs, such as antibiotics. Another withdrawn drug, Rezulin, which was prescribed to diabetics, was finally pulled for safety reasons, but not until it had caused 400 cases of liver failure and 155 deaths. And then there’s Vioxx. This arthritis drug was yanked from the market after reports that it significantly increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. But before it was, the FDA estimates that the drug caused nearly 28,000 deaths among users.

Lipitor, Viagra, Fosamax

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of other prescription and OTC drugs that should carry stronger warnings but don’t. For example, commonly prescribed statin drugs like Lipitor can cause muscle damage and even death in some people. And the best-selling drug Viagra has been linked to heart attack and vision problems. Fosamax, the popular osteoporosis drug, is quickly gaining a reputation for decaying the jaw bone in women using the drug. It’s so serious that Merck, the drug’s maker, has put aside a $48 million war chest in anticipation of lawsuits. And yet, these drugs are still being prescribed to millions of patients.

Please, don’t get me wrong. There are situations where drugs are the best choice. But, in many cases, there are safer options—many of which come from nature. How safe are dietary supplements? The FDA has received a grand total of just 2,621 reports of adverse reactions from supplements over the past 16 years! That’s an average of 163 per year. And, last year, there were only 16 reports of death linked to supplement use. Compare that with the nearly 199,000 deaths from prescription drugs each and every year and you can see how much safer supplements are. Think of it this way, it’s more likely that you will die from being struck by lightning than from taking a dietary supplement.

Unfortunately, the dietary supplement industry doesn’t have the funding that Big Pharma enjoys, so many people are unaware of the safety and efficacy supplements offer. This has been a concern of mine for many years. As a doctor, I would rather have an educated patient than one that just pops whatever pills are prescribed without asking any questions.

References:

Reaction. American Medical News. 15 Jan 1996. Page 11.

Temple RJ, et al. Safety of Newly Approved Drugs: Implications for Prescribing. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2002;287:2273-2275.

Unintentional Poisoning Deaths: United States, 1999—2004. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. CDC. 2007;56:93-96.

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About the author

author-picture

Dr. David Blyweiss is well-known across the world for his major advancements in alternative medicine.

He's traveled much of the world working closely with specialists to identify new plant life and natural products for possible human benefit.

In addition he has been successfully helping alternative medicine companies develop cutting-edge nutritional supplements for over 11 years. He's currently in private practice in Florida, serves on the advisory board for Advanced Natural Medicine, and is the senior supplement advisor at The Uniscience Group.


Comments

Anonymous's picture
1

Anonymous

This is the doctor I would love to have. All my doctors are brainwashed by Big Pharma and if I ask them about the danger of side effects, they usually respond that the benefits are outweigh the side effects. Honestly, I don't buy that.
Unfortunately, I don't have a choice because there are no doctors I could see in my area that practice the alternative medicine. However, I am trying to resist when they want me to take an additional medications if I feel it is not necessary.
They don't like me because I am an educated patient and I don't blindly follow their recommendations. I research first.
Thank you Dr. David Blyweiss!

Alice Wessendorf's picture
2

Alice Wessendorf

Hi Anonymous 1,

Thanks for your comment!

I have a few links for you to check to help you in your search for an alternative practitioner in your area. You might be suprised by turning up a few nearer than you thought.

First is our friends over at HSI have a really great resource for finding soemonewho practices alternative, natural or complementary medicine in your state. It's called Find A Doc. You might want to search for people in your state.

Second the American Holistic Medical Association has an excellent resource for finding holistic practitioners in your area. Their search form allows you to choose a specialty as well. It's called Find A Holistic Practitioner.

And last, but not least, is the American College for Advancement in Medicine's Physician Link.

Good luck with finding a doc who appreciates having an informed patient. They are out there :-)

Anonymous's picture
3

m.c.

I agree, most doctors are drug-pushers, and don't think for themseves, It takes a great deal of Real Intelligence to think for oneself, and not be a puppet to Big Pharma, You don't get that from going to University, m.c.

Anonymous's picture
4

dick burns

How about addressing the dangers of Flouroquinolones?

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