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Injuries, Deaths Caused by Medications Skyrocket 38 Percent

by David Gutierrez

(NaturalNews) The number of serious injuries and deaths linked to the use of prescription medications reached a new high in the first quarter of 2008, according to a report issued by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

Researchers found mention of 4,825 deaths and approximately 21,000 serious injuries among voluntary adverse event reports submitted by doctors to the FDA between January and March. These numbers were 38 percent higher than the quarterly average for 2007 and a striking 200 percent higher than the first quarter of 2007.

The researchers estimate that because adverse event reports are voluntary, the numbers represent less than one-tenth of the actual prescription drug-related injuries and deaths taking place.

Together, 10 drugs were responsible for killing more than 100 people each, thereby accounting for more than 20 percent of all deaths. This contrasted with prior quarters studied, in which only one to three drugs killed that many people.

The two single most lethal drugs were the anti-smoking drug varenicline — marketed as Chantix — and the blood thinner heparin. While heparin was responsible for killing a 102 people and injuring 779, the vast majority of these cases were associated with a batch of contaminated medication imported from China. Since the discovery of the tainted drugs, injuries and deaths from heparin have dropped off.

Chantix, in contrast, continues to cause high rates of injury and deaths, accounting for 50 fatalities and 1,001 serious injuries in the first quarter of the year. Since its approval in 2006, the drug has been implicated in 112 fatalities and 3,325 serious injuries. Many of these injuries were self-inflicted and stemmed from the drug's psychiatric side effects, while others stemmed from seizures, blackouts, loss of consciousness and sudden heart arrhythmia.

Other drugs in the top 10 included the common over-the-counter painkillers acetaminophen and ibuprofen, as well as prescription pain killers and narcotics.

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