Board of Scientists Sets
Record Straight on Pharmaceuticals

Copyright 1998 The American Council on Science and Health

New York, NY, April 14, 1998 -- "Scientists at the American Council on Science and Health today questioned a new report in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that cites adverse reactions to drugs as the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. The JAMA report, in the April 15th issue, is entitled Incidents of Adverse Drug Reaction in Hospitalized Patients.

"The JAMA study fails to point out the almost incalculable number of lives saved each year as a result of properly prescribed pharmaceuticals," said Jeff Stier, an attorney and associate director of the American Council on Science and Health. "To study the negative effects of drugs without recognizing the overwhelmingly positive effects they have on our health simply does not make sense," added Mr. Stier.

Other problems with the new report, according to ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, are "that the patients in this study were sicker than the average hospitalized patient population; that the length of stay was 40 percent higher; that the hospitals evaluated were known to care for sicker patients; and that the sites within the hospitals were not representative. Furthermore, even though new medicines have become available over the 30-year period in which the study was conducted, adverse reactions did not rise together with the number of new drugs available."

"Certainly," noted Mr. Stier, "we are concerned about any deaths caused by adverse drug reactions; but this study might leave people thinking that drugs are, indeed, the fourth-leading cause of death in this country"and that is simply not the case. The JAMA study obscures the very basic risk-benefit analysis that should go into any evaluation of the worth of pharmaceutical products. Is it now necessary," he asked, "to remind the public that pharmaceuticals have had"and will continue to have"an overwhelmingly net-positive effect on our health?"

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