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Deaths From Prescription Drugs Spike 25 Percent As A New Month Begins

The mortality rate attributed to errors in prescription drugs rises as high as 25 PERCENT above normal during the first few days of each month, according to new research. The primary cause: A beginning-of-the-month increase in pharmacy workloads and a consequent increase in their error rates.

Researchers examined some 132,000 death certifcates from 1979-2000 that were classified as fatal poisoning accidents from drugs. A very small number (slightly more than 3 percent) were from adverse effects of the right drug in the right dose. Almost 97 PERCENT resulted from medication errors classified largely in these ways:

  • The wrong drug given or taken
  • An accidental overdose of drug
  • A drug taken inadvertently

The sharp rise in the beginning-of-the-month fatality rate was particularly pronounced in people for whom the mistakes proved rapidly fatal: Those who were dead on arrival at a hospital, died in the emergency department or as outpatients. And the climb was as evident in the young and well-off as in the elderly and poor, suggesting the problem was at least partly due to an increase in pharmacy errors.

These insane numbers coupled with all the recent news about Vioxx and Celebrex are reasons more people by the day are embracing my vision to topple the existing drug-based, "Bandaid" style paradigm for one focused on treating and preventing the underlying causes of disease.

EurekAlert January 5, 2005

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