nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Sunday, September 23, 2007

YOU CAN'T GET THE TRUTH FROM THE PRESS

This kind of stuff drives me crazy. My personal experience of media reporting in 27 years of military service is that the truth gets told…never.

I took a look at the list of 51 drugs primarily responsible for the increase in adverse reactions (all drugs, and so-called natural supplements, can kill you…so if you’re looking for a guarantee, crawl in a hole and shovel the dirt over). They are largely drugs that are serious pain meds like morphine and percodan, that have been with us forever, and are used for serious problems that have increased risk of their own….or they are new drugs that are tertiary therapies for disabling chronic conditions where we don’t have 40 years of experience with prescribing. Ask yourself whether, if you have crippling rheumatoid arthritis, and common drugs aren’t helping, you would want to wait the thirty years, or take it now with the data we have, knowing that in thirty years your disease will have done you in.

My comments only brush the surface of the complexities involved here, but, as usual, the media gives us the superficial story to sell the news.

D

JAMES J DOUGHERTY, MD, MPH

Adverse reactions to drugs increased from 1998-2005, analysis shows. In continuing coverage from yesterday's briefing, the CBS Evening News (9/10, story 4, 1:55, Couric) reported, "A new study shows a huge jump in the number of Americans having bad reactions to prescription medications." The Wall Street Journal (9/11, Dooren) adds, "The number of serious drug side effects and deaths reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more than doubled over an eight-year period, according to an analysis of adverse-drug events reported to the agency," and published in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine. "As part of the agency's...MedWatch reporting system, drug companies, health-care professionals and the public can file reports when they think a drug is connected to a side-effect or fatality." These reports are mandatory for drug companies, but voluntary for health-care professionals. Study author Thomas J. Moore, senior scientist, drug safety and policy at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., and colleagues at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., "looked at reports that are considered serious from 1998 to 2005." According to the Washington Times (9/11, Lopes), "A serious adverse event, as defined by the FDA, includes a reaction to a drug that results in death, a birth defect, disability or hospitalization. These events are reported to the FDA directly by drug manufacturers, which are informed of the events by consumers and doctors." The Los Angeles Times (9/11, Maugh II) quotes Dr. Moore as saying, "A quarter of the increase could be attributed to a boost in prescriptions and another 15% to the introduction of new biotechnology drugs since 1998, but the rest of the increase could not be explained." The Times continues, "Both the FDA and a trade group representing drugmakers agreed that the number of reported adverse events had been increasing, but they attributed much of the rise to an increase in voluntary reporting of the events." And other "[s]tudies have estimated that from as little as 3% of adverse events to a maximum of about 33% have been reported to the FDA." Bloomberg (9/11, Cortez) notes, "Fifty-one drugs accounted for almost half of the 467,809 cases reported during the eight years covered." The researches found that "[p]ainkillers, such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.'s generic oxycodone, and drugs that alter the immune system, including Johnson & Johnson's Remicade (infliximab), were linked to a disproportionate number of deaths." Fentanyl, morphine and acetaminophen, which is sold without a prescription by Johnson & Johnson as Tylenol, were also linked to the deaths. In all, over "15,000 people died from drug reactions in 2005, compared with 5,519 people in 1998." The researchers also found that "89,482 serious side effects from drug treatment were reported to the FDA in 2005, more than 2 1/2 times the 34,966 reported in 1998." Furthermore, "The number of serious reactions increased four times faster than the total number of prescriptions written for patient use outside the hospital. About 1,500 drugs had reported side effects."

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