All medications have the potential to cause serious side effects—a fact that people seeking relief from pain and disease symptoms often forget. But as Americans take more and more medications, reports of “adverse events’’ are soaring, says the Los Angeles Times. Nearly 90,000 bad drug reactions were reported in 2005, with many resulting in hospitalization and 15,100 ending in death. Those numbers have tripled since 1998, when the FDA made it easier for consumers to report side effects of their prescription drugs. Nearly nine out of 10 of the adverse reactions were attributed to just
20 percent of the drugs, some of which are commonly prescribed painkillers and immune system suppressants for arthritis. Five of the six drugs that caused the most deaths were painkillers: OxyContin, Fentanyl, morphine, acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), and methadone. These same painkillers, along with estrogens, insulin, warfarin (an anti-clotting medication), and Paroxetine (an antidepressant), caused the most nonfatal adverse reactions. “The clear finding is that we are losing ground in terms of drug safety,” says Thomas J. Moore of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. “That ought to be of great concern.”