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Death From Prescription Drugs

It's a well-documented fact that adverse drug effects and other medical errors are the third leading cause of death in America – coming in just behind cancer and heart disease.

But think about this question, how is it possible that adverse drug events harm 2.7 million hospitalized patients in the U.S. annually, with over 106,000 deaths? And that's just for hospitalized patients. Another 350,00 adverse drug events occur in U.S. nursing homes each year.

And believe it or not, by most estimates, only 1-10% of adverse events are ever reported.

Are there no effective safeguards in place to protect consumers from dangerous drugs? And who might be to blame?

That good question was studied by researchers at Harvard (Donald W. Light, Joel Lexchin, and Jonathan J. Darrow)[i]. What did they find? While not absolving physicians of their responsibility to get the facts about drugs – what they discovered about the big pharmaceutical companies is disturbing…

"Institutional corruption is a normative concept of growing importance that embodies the systemic dependencies and informal practices that distort an institution's societal mission.

An extensive range of studies and lawsuits already documents strategies by which pharmaceutical companies hide, ignore, or misrepresent evidence about new drugs; distort the medical literature; and misrepresent products to prescribing physicians.

We focus on the consequences for patients: millions of adverse reactions. After defining institutional corruption, we focus on evidence that it lies behind the epidemic of harms and the paucity of benefits...

The authors of this study found that institutional corruption in the pharmaceutical industry occurs on three levels:

  • Lobbying efforts and political contributions
  • Industry pressure on the FDA
  • Commercializing the role of physicians

Don't these pharmaceutical giants have an obligation to protect consumers from harm? The study authors continue:

"The major patent-based research pharmaceutical companies also nominally commit themselves to improving health and relieving suffering... But in fact, these companies are mostly developing drugs that are mostly little better than existing products but have the potential to cause widespread adverse reactions even when appropriately prescribed. This deviation from the principles of health care by institutions allegedly dedicated to health care is institutional corruption.

We present evidence that industry has a hidden business model to maximize profits on scores of drugs with clinically minor additional benefits. Physician commitment to better health is compromised as the industry spends billions to create what Lessig calls a "gift economy" of interdependent reciprocation."

What about the claim that pharmaceutical companies invest tremendous resources in research and development (R&D) of drugs? Shouldn't that result in safer drugs?

Not if the foxes are minding the hen house...

Sergio Sismondo of Queen's University, Canada, writes in the journal Frontiers in Research Metrics and Analysis (2021) that pharmaceutical company-sponsored clinical trials "are designed, organized, audited, analyzed, and written up by the companies and their hired subcontractors"[ii].

As for investments made in research and development, according to a 2020 U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee report, many big drug companies spend a larger portion of their R&D budget developing tactics to suppress "generic and biosimilar competition" rather than on developing new drugs.

Add to these facts the additional problem of research fraud (i.e., studies published in top medical journals that fabricate results and omit adverse effects) – and you have a perfect storm for consumers.

Look. It's simple. Consumers in America have a right to expect that the drugs they're prescribed are safe and effective.

Clearly, that right is being ignored.

If you or a loved one is ever the victim of a defective drug, call a qualified Connecticut product liability lawyer. A knowledgeable product liability attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected.

RisCassi & Davis has handled large numbers of these kinds of cases over our 65 years serving the people of Connecticut.

What's more, our Connecticut product liability lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of these cases.

Please contact us if we can help you. The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind. And - there is no fee or other costs unless we are successful on your behalf

 

[i] Donald W. Light, Joel Lexchin, and Jonathan J. Darrow., Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs. Harvard Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 2013

[ii] Sismondo, S., Epistemic Corruption, the Pharmaceutical Industry, and the Body of Medical Science. Front. Res. Metr. Anal., 08 March 2021