Adverse Drug Reactions

4 June 2008

According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association written by a team led by Bruce Pomeranz, adverse drug reactions (ADR) have become the USA's fourth-biggest killer. The results of 39 studies of adverse drug reactions suggest that they could affect as many as 2.2 million hospital patients a year, causing 106,000 deaths. This is equivalent to 4.6 per cent of all recorded deaths. An average 6.7% of all hospitalised patients experience an ADR every year, according to the investigators. And these incidence figures are probably conservative, the researchers add, since their ADR definition did not include patient outcomes linked to errors in drug administration, overdoses, drug abuse and therapeutic failures. Another US study has estimated that the overall cost of treating ADRs is up to $4 billion per year.

In an editorial comment on the study, Dr. David Bates of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, believes the numbers may be somewhat inflated because all of the 39 studies took place at teaching hospitals which usually care for sicker (and thus, more ADR- prone) patients. In a major rebuttal of the report, however, The Situation Management Group, Inc., a management consulting firm that includes pharmaceutical interests among its clients, claims that study author Bruce Pomeranz is not simply a disinterested University of Toronto neurophysiologist, as portrayed by the media but an outspoken advocate of acupuncture and a critic of traditional medicine. (The Journal of the American Medical Association (1998;279(15):1200-1205, 1216-1217).

New research carried out by Professor Alasdair Breckenridge of Liverpool University indicates that that up to 20,000 deaths a year in Britain may be linked to adverse drug reactions (ADR), that ADRs may be implicated in 5% of all hospital admissions and may occur in as many as one in five hospital in- patients. Among patients taking five or more drugs, there is a 50 percent chance of an adverse reaction. This report follows research in the USA which suggested that ADRs were the fourth leading cause of death, after heart disease, cancer and stroke.

: Diet & Lifestyle

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