Drug reactions a leading cause of death

Drug reactions are ranked as between the 4th and 6th leading cause of death in the U.S

Prescription drugs can be used to effectively treat a vast variety of ailments.  But with all of these different types of drugs, the potential for serious reactions to individual drugs, as well as the potential for dangerously combining certain drugs increases.  Prescription drug dangers were catapaulted to the front of the media attention when,  earlier in 2009, Michael Jackson met his untimely demise, speculated to have been caused by an overdose of a variety of prescription drugs.  The AP reported:

“Michael Jackson’s death is a wake-up call to the nation about prescription drug abuse.  Gil Kerlikowske, chief of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says more people  are dying in the United States from drug overdoses than from gunshot wounds…. Investigators looking into the cause of Jackson’s death have homed in on drugs that were    administered to the musician to fight his insomnia.”

The previous year, in 2008, actor Heath Ledger also died of an overdose of prescription drugs.

The FDA, in a compilation of reports from 1998 to 2005, found that dangerous side effects and deaths from prescription and over-the-counter medications almost tripled to nearly 90,000 incidents.  The CDC reported that from 1999 to 2004, unintentional poisoning death from prescription drugs sleeping pills, antidepressants and tranquilizers grew 84 percent to 20,950 deaths, overtaking cocaine and heroin combined as the leading cause of lethal overdose.  In 2005, the CDC reported that that number had increased to 33,541 And the 2006 CDC report showed another increase to 38,396  (Kung HC, Hoyert DL, Xu JQ, Murphy SL. Deaths: Final data for 2005. National vital statistics reports; vol 56 no 10. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2008.; Heron MP, Hoyert DL, Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD, Tejada-Deaths: Final data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009). According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)  a 1998 report found that prescription drugs kill about 106,000 Americans each year – that’s three times as many as are killed by automobiles—making prescription drug death the fourth leading killer after heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Last year, the  Journal of the American Medical Association put death from all drugs, illegal and prescription, second only behind car accidents as a cause of death.  The Associated Press, however on October 1, 2009 reported:

    “ In 16 states and counting, drugs now kill more people than auto accidents do… For     decades, traffic accidents have been the biggest cause of injury-related death in the U.S.,     and they are still No. 1. But drug overdoses are pulling ahead in one state after another.”

The rise in deaths coincides with the direct marketing of prescription medication to the public. Prescription drug sales have soared nearly 500 percent since 1990.  With this increase of use, it becomes more important than ever to have an effective system for managing prescriptions to patients to help prevent drug interactions, serious side effects, overdose, and death.

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