CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Deadly drug reactions cited in UK

The BBC World News reported that nearly 3,000 people have died in the past three years after suffering serious side-effects or allergies to their medicines, according to government statistics. This includes damage caused by "over the counter" drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. The BBC called this "a dangerously escalating problem, which is putting lives at risk and placing a big cost burden on the NHS." The figures reportedly come from the:

"yellow card" scheme, run by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) to gather reports of all adverse reactions from both clinicians and patients.

Last year, there were reports of 964 patients in the UK who died as a result of an adverse reaction, compared with more than 1,000 the previous year, and 861 in 2004.

However, there is evidence that the vast majority of adverse drug reactions are never reported to the MHRA. A study published last year suggested that 6.5% of all patients admitted to hospital had experienced a reaction, and that in four out of five cases, the medicines they were taking were to blame.
Many common drugs were said to be responsible for the damage:
While many of the cases involve drugs commonly prescribed by GPs and in hospitals, such as the blood-thinning drug warfarin and diuretics, a list of common culprits includes some which can be bought without prescription in any high street chemist.

These include aspirin, and the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen, both of which can cause gastric bleeding if taken in high doses over longer periods.
No recommendation was made or prospective solution offered; at this point, there is only a stated political commitment to a "full investigation."
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