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Thousands killed by drug reactions

Nearly 3,000 patients have died since 2004 after suffering adverse reactions to drugs they thought would make them better, new figures show.

They suffered allergic reactions to, or serious side-effects from, medicines which proved fatal, while more than 13,000 others needed long-term hospital treatment for the effects of their reaction, but survived.

Liberal Democrats health spokesman Norman Lamb, who obtained the statistics through Parliament, called for a “full investigation” of the problem, and added that the number of people killed or injured by allergic reactions to drugs is growing.

“This is a dangerously escalating problem, which is putting lives at risk and placing a big cost burden on the NHS.

“This situation will only get worse as the number of older people receiving a lot of medication increases in coming years.”

He said he had written to the Health Secretary Alan Johnson, to ask for an inquiry to be launched into the issue.

Last year, 964 patients died because of suspected drug reactions, 203 after long-term hospital treatment.

In 2005, more than 1,000 patients died from similar suspected reasons. Some 861 died in 2004.

The figures for Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) describe patients who have an adverse reaction to prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines and those on sale in shops across the entire UK.

Copyright © PA Business 2007

Liberal Democrats

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“Even if I may feel close to Mr Lamb, I strongly regret that politicians exploit the figures about ADRs to promote their image. Unlike medication errors (where progress is possible), ADRs are more than difficult to avoid when we request medications which are effective. We have to understand that the “zero-risk society” is an illusion. We have to build up systems which provide the best care for all patients. At the same time we have to remember humbly that the best we can do has a limit. Patients happen to die because of ADRs. How many have been saved (cared for) by receiving the appropriate medication? The vast majority. When we address medication errors, we will at the same time reduce the number of ADRs – but not eliminate this risk.” – Christian Hay, Medinorma LLC, Switzerland

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