Prescription Drugs Causing Injury? – Issue 26

Dear Health-Conscious Friend,

Many of us trust our doctors to prescribe the proper medications to help us overcome sickness and heal properly.

But a new study shows the number of folks injured or even KILLED by prescription drugs has spiked considerably!

In today’s Monday Edition of Health News Weekly™, find out what may be behind this alarming increase.

Plus, find out why breathing problems are on the rise… what your cholesterol numbers really mean… and even how to avoid heat-related illnesses.

This issue is jam-packed with tips to help you live a healthy lifestyle! So let’s get to it!

Prescription Drug Injuries and Deaths
More than Double in 7 Years!

Layne Lowery

The number of injuries and deaths associated with prescription medication in the United States more than doubled between 1998 and 2005, a new study shows.

What’s more alarming is this increase only accounts for voluntarily reported incidents submitted by drug manufacturers!

Researchers at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Pennsylvania say their study results highlight an urgent need for improved patient safety in prescription drug use.

Lead study author Thomas Moore and his colleagues analyzed all serious adverse drug events and medication errors reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 1998 to 2005.

The FDA definition of a serious adverse drug event is one that results in:

  • Death
  • Birth defects
  • Disability
  • Hospitalization

An incident that is life-threatening or requires intervention to prevent harm also falls within this category.

According to a Health Day report, the number of reported serious adverse drug events increased from 34,966 in 1998 to 89,842 in 2005.

What’s worse, during the same time period—the number of fatal adverse drug events increased from 5,519 to 15,107.

Researchers noted the number of adverse events increased 4 times faster than the total number of outpatient prescriptions!

According to Moore and his research team, adverse drug events could be on the rise because of:

  1. Increasingly aggressive use of drug treatments in the aging population.
  2. New biotech products that have entered the market since 1988.
  3. Increased incident reports for drugs whose risks should have been managed sooner.

Of the 1,489 drugs associated with adverse events, 51 drugs had more incident reports than all other medications in any given year. !

This group of drugs accounted for 43.6% of the total incident reports. And guess which drugs were voted “most likely to do bodily harm”? Pain medications and drugs that affect the immune system were disproportionately linked to reports of drug-related deaths!

You may be surprised to know drugs targeted for safety withdrawals played a very small role in report findings. Reported adverse events for these drugs declined from 26 percent in 1999 to less than 1 percent in 2005.

Moore said adverse drug events are an unpopular subject many patients and health professionals don’t want to confront.

Moore said the pharmaceutical industry wants the public to focus on the benefits of their drugs—not their potential problems. But Moore says it’s possible to manage the risks of prescription drugs by directing attention to possible dangers.

In an effort to address drug-safety issues, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently unveiled initiatives designed to counter growing criticism of its procedures and to improve the country’s health safety net.

The recommendations include a project to assess drug safety after they’re on the market. They also unveiled initiatives to improve communication both within and outside the agency.

Lung and Breathing Problems
on the Rise Worldwide

Roz Roscoe, Staff Writer

More people around the world are suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than previously thought, an international team of researchers reports.

Worse yet, those numbers are bound to increase as the world’s population continues to age, claims the study in the September 1 issue of The Lancet.

COPD is a lung disease that progressively damages the lungs, making it hard to breathe. The disease obstructs the small airways in the lungs so it is difficult to get air in and out.

The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. In addition, breathing lung irritants, such as pollution, dust or chemicals, over a long period of time also causes or contributes to the condition.

The lead study author was Dr. A. Sonia Buist, chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. In a Reuters Health report, Buist said “we did the study, because there is a huge disconnect between the public and [their] perception of the burden of COPD, and the reality.”

Buist’s group collected data on 9,425 people aged 40 and over from 12 different countries.

They found that the overall prevalence of severe COPD was 10.1 percent. Among men, it was 11.8 percent and for women, 8.5 percent. Buist said these figures contrast with another recent study that placed the overall burden of COPD at 4.3 percent.

Cape Town, South Africa, had the highest prevalence of COPD, with 22.2 percent of men and 16.7 percent of women affected, while Hanover, Germany, had the lowest prevalence, with 8.6 percent of men and 3.7 percent of women with serious COPD.

In the United States, the overall prevalence of serious COPD is 10.1 percent, the researchers reported.

The difference in COPD between men and women is mostly due to differences in smoking habits, the researchers pointed out.

The increasing prevalence of COPD is partly due to the aging population, where the risk of the disease nearly doubles for every 10 years over the age of 40, and also to smoking.

Prevention is the best advice Buist has to offer, since there is no cure for COPD. This means not smoking… avoiding jobs that expose you to pollution and smoke… or wearing protective gear.

Fast Fact

Chamomile is an herb traditionally used to help relieve stress, anxiety and insomnia because of its sedative properties. It also can be used to soothe indigestion and spasms in your gastrointestinal tract.

Try sipping a cup of chamomile tea just prior to bed. It can help calm your nerves—and provide a little natural sedation to prevent sleepless nights!

Do You Know the Meaning of Your
Cholesterol Numbers?

Tonia Beverly, Contributing Editor

Many folks have heard it’s wise to keep their cholesterol levels low…

…but a majority of people don’t know exactly what the numbers mean—or how to know if their numbers are good or bad! A step toward improving your health is to first know what your cholesterol numbers are and what they mean.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is a natural part of cell membranes. Your liver produces most of the cholesterol your body needs. You also get more cholesterol from foods you eat that are high in saturated fats such as meat and dairy products.

Your doctor can perform a simple blood test—called a lipoprotein profile—to determine if your cholesterol numbers are high enough to pose a problem.

This test measures 3 things:

  1. Low density lipoprotein (LDL)—sometimes called “bad cholesterol”, your LDL number should be under 100
  2. High density lipoprotein (HDL)—often called “good cholesterol”, your HDL number should be 40 or higher
  3. Triglycerides—technically, triglycerides are not cholesterol, but they are included in the profile as high levels of triglycerides can also indicate an increased risk of heart disease

If your combined number is above 240, this means your blood contains enough sticky fats that could block your blood vessels… cause sticky plaque to harden and narrow your arteries… and potentially cause heart disease or a stroke!

All adults over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol checked every five years.

If you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or high blood pressure, you should be screened more often.

You should also be screened more often if you have an existing medical condition that puts you at increased risk for heart disease, such as being diabetic or overweight.

Health E-Hints

Healthy Hydration to Beat the Outdoor Heat!

Many folks look forward to spending more time outdoors during the cooler fall season. But in many regions, autumn temperatures can still be warm enough to leave your throat raw and scratchy—and your body as limp as a wet dish rag!

Here are a few tips to help avoid heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses:

  1. Drink PLENTY of water—Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD from the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic says water is “non-caloric, it plumps up your skin, and it hydrates your muscles. Water is the staff of life.”
  2. Avoid caffeine drinks—soft drinks and some sport drinks are loaded with caffeine which can be a diuretic—and can worsen the dehydration you may experience when exercising!
  3. Consider sport drinks while exercising outdoors—sports drinks are packed with the electrolytes potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium to provide energy during intense workouts. Make sure the one you choose does not contain caffeine.

Whenever you plan to spend extra hours outdoors, don’t forget to raise a cup and DRINK to your health!