All Articles, Health & Wellness

Prescription Drugs: 4th Leading Cause of Death

Prescription Drugs: 4th Leading Cause of Death

If there’s one thing the Heath Ledger tragedy proved, it that prescription drugs can be as dangerous as street drugs. The pharmaceutical industry markets, sells and profits greatly from prescription drugs that, at best, mainly work in 30% to 50% of people and, at worst, actually contribute to hospitalization, permanent disability, disease, illness and death. Prescription drugs have killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War and on a yearly basis.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), prescription drugs are now the fourth leading medical cause of death in the U.S. and Canada, behind only cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

One out of five (1 out of 5) new drugs in the U.S. is taken off the market for harming or killing patients or will have the highest level of warning placed on the label. It has become more and more common to discover the dangers of drugs after they have been on the market, despite the FDA approval process, which has be been tainted over the years.

The American people have become the lab rats for the pharmaceutical industry and it isn’t until the damage has been done that these drugs are removed from the market. Half of new drug withdrawals occur in the first two years. An alarming 51% of drugs approved by the FDA have serious adverse effects that are not detected prior to approval. It is estimated that each year prescription drugs injure 1.5 million people to the degree that they require hospitalization.

According to a study in the Journal of American Medical Association, each year prescription drugs cause serious reactions and permanent disability for over 2.2 million people. Many researchers state that these figures are grossly understated and it is much higher, but fear of lawsuits prevent accurate reporting. Award winning medical journalist, Lynne McTaggart states that “the vast majority of drug-related deaths are never reported at all.”

A comprehensive study performed in the U.S. by three University of Toronto professors in 1998, revealed 106,000 deaths in U.S. hospitals were caused by prescription drugs administered as prescribed-not in error! Many observers believe there could be another 100,000 deaths caused by prescription drugs outside hospitals.

For example, David Graham, a reviewer for the FDA estimated that the drug Vioxx may have killed as many as 55,000 individuals. Not long after being introduced to the market, Viagra had serious side effects and deaths and the list goes on and on…
According to Kirstin Borgerson – “The population of North America is one of the most heavily medicated in the world.”

The profitable pharmaceutical industry has created a disturbingly “legal drug addicted” society. Peter R. Breggin, M.D., a Harvard-trained, (former full-time consultant at National Institute of Mental Health) Psychiatrist and expert in clinical psychopharmacology does an excellent job of bringing the problem of our drug addicted society to life in his latest book Medication Madness. Dr. Breggin refers to the horrendous effects of psychiatric drugs on those taking them, citing 50 case studies which resulted in everything from suicide to murder. With such a large percentage of the population taking over-the-counter and prescribed medications, Medication Madness, applies to our society as a whole.

Dr. Allen Roses, the worldwide vice-president of GlaxoSmithKline, has been quoted as saying that “the vast majority of drugs-more than 90%-only work in 30% or 50% of the people.” He said that “cancer drugs work 25% of the time, Alzheimer’s drugs work 30% of the time, and many others only 50%.”

The pharmaceutical industry spends more than twice as much on advertising and administration than on research. Since 1990, prescription drug rates have gone up 500%. Advertisements on TV constantly push everything imaginable from drugs for serious to mild ailments, making it seem that this drug is the answer for you. The problem that many fall into is thinking that since it’s prescribed it is okay, even with a few minor side-effects.

The pharmaceutical industry is riddled with conflicts of interest, from what some claim is the “sellout” of legislators and the co-opting of the FDA. It is also no secret that drug companies “buy” many in the industry from doctors to researchers. Pharmaceuticals do their own testing which is a huge conflict of interest and one of the biggest problems in the industry.

While the drugs may be causing death, the profits are soaring. It is no secret that the pharmaceutical industry is a billion dollar giant profiting hand over fist at the public’s peril.

From 1960 to 1980, prescription drug sales were fairly steady as a percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, but from 1980 to 2000, they tripled. Sales now stand between $200 billion to $300 billion a year.

The top ten drug companies (which included European companies) had profits of nearly 25 percent of sales in 1990. In 2001, the ten American drug companies in the Fortune 500 list ranked far above all other American industries in average net return, whether as a percentage of sales (18.5 percent), of assets (16.3 percent), or of shareholders’ equity (33.2 percent). These are astonishing margins. For comparison, the median net return for all other industries in the Fortune 500 was only 3.3 percent of sales. The most startling fact about 2002 is that the combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together (33.7 billion).

Let me emphasize this again. The combined profits of the ten largest US drug companies reaches 35.9 billion – a sum higher than the combined profits for all other 490 corporations on the Fortune 500 List!

According to IMS Retail Drug Monitor, “Global pharmaceutical sales through retail pharmacies increased 5% to 386.23 billion from November 2005 to November 2006.”
There is incontrovertible evidence that many prescription drugs are harmful and we are paying a huge price, both in lives and dollars. It is also clear that many of the practices of the pharmaceutical monopoly are unethical and immoral. The “Father of Medicine,” Hippocrates is well known for saying that as far as disease, help or at least do no harm. If he were here today, he would be appalled at the callousness, corruption and greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Too many are hurt and die while others greedily rake in the profits. However, we need to clearly understand that the pharmaceutical companies are not here to help us become healthy; they are here to make money. Part of the problem is a total lack of accountability and it’s not just the drug companies that need to be accountable- we also have to be accountable for our health and that of our children. Wake up, America- it’s time to evaluate what makes sense and what doesn’t…

For further information on this and other topics, go to
Susan Jenkins contributed to this story, reported for

[Leave a Comment]  [Read Comments] 

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Healthy Alter Ego : The Health & Wellness Source You've Been Searching For
The information offered from Healthy Alter Ego and its contributors is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for personal, professional or medical advice of any kind. You are advised to discuss your specific health and medical conditions with your doctor or qualified health practitioner. Common sense is a good idea too. Contributors that are kind enough to submit information do not necessarily endorse other content, sources or the opinions of other contributors.