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Death by Medicine: Seniors to Kids, Drugs and Poisons
© 2014 Health Realizations, Inc. Update


The American medical system may be the leading cause of death and injury in the United States, according to a 2003 review of medical peer-reviewed journals and government health statistics by Gary Null PhD, Carolyn Dean MD ND and colleagues.

prescription drugs

The average American aged 19-64 takes 11 prescriptions a year; those over 65 take 31!

Upon reviewing the evidence, they found that medical “care” often causes more harm than good. They noted the following, shocking, statistics:

  • 7.5 million unnecessary medical and surgical procedures are performed annually

  • 8.9 million people are hospitalized unnecessarily

  • Nearly 784,000 iatrogenic (unintentionally caused by a doctor or medical treatment) deaths occur each year (for comparison, the 2001 heart disease annual death rate was 699,697, while the annual cancer death rate was 553,251)

When you consider that many medical mishaps resulting in death are never reported, that last statistic climbs even higher. The authors wrote:

As few as 5 percent and only up to 20 percent of iatrogenic acts are ever reported. This implies that if medical errors were completely and accurately reported, we would have a much higher annual iatrogenic death rate than 783,936.

Dr. Leape, in 1994, said his figure of 180,000 medical mistakes annually was equivalent to three jumbo-jet crashes every two days. Our report shows that six jumbo jets are falling out of the sky each and every day.”

Why are Prescription Drugs Killing so Many People?

The statistics above took into account not only adverse drug reactions (ADRs) but also medical errors, infections, bedsores, malnutrition, unnecessary procedures and surgery-related mishaps. All contributed to the dire picture painted of the U.S. medical system, however adverse drug reactions topped the list at 106,000 deaths a year, at a cost of $12 billion.

This issue is one that has been going on for some time, and it impacts all age groups, from children to seniors.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, in 1994, adverse drug reactions were between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

More recently, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that one in four patients are plagued by side effects from prescription medications. Of the patients who experienced side effects (out of over 1,200 patients), 13 percent were serious (internal bleeding, low blood pressure, etc.). Another 39 percent were preventable or potentially treatable, such as a patient accidentally receiving a drug he or she is allergic to.

Other studies have also found that adverse drug reactions represent a serious risk to Americans. Findings include:

  • An estimated 5 percent of hospital admissions -- over 1 million per year -- are due to drug side effects.

  • ADRs were directly responsible for the hospital admission 3.8 percent of the time, yet 57 percent of them were not recognized by the physician at the time of admission.

  • 18.6 percent of all drugs prescribed prior to hospital admission were contraindicated.

  • Up to 88 percent of ADR-related hospitalizations in the elderly are preventable.

  • Nursing home residents suffer 350,000 ADRs a year, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Unfortunately, many ADRs are never recognized for what they are, and the patient may instead be diagnosed with a new "disease” when the problem stems from a prescription drug.

Prescription Drug Use is Out of Control

The latest statistics on prescription drug use from the Kaiser Health Foundation shed some light on why so many people are being harmed by prescription drugs … namely their widespread use:

  • The average American aged 19-64 takes over 11 prescriptions per year

  • Those aged 65 and over take over 31 prescriptions a year

  • Kids aged 0 to 18 take nearly four prescriptions a year

Considering you areat an increased risk of ADR if you are taking two or more medications (and an extremely increased risk if taking four or more), many Americans are putting themselves at risk on a daily basis.

The truth is, U.S. prescription drug use is on the rise, and not just among seniors or those in middle age. Children were actually the leading growth category for the pharmaceutical industry in 2009, and the increase in prescription drug use among kids came in at four times higher than that of the overall population, a Medco Health Solutions report found.

Fueling the rise were significant jumps in prescribing rates for drugs to treat type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, blood pressure, cholesterol, acid reflux and heartburn in children -- all conditions that were previously only associated with adults.

Prescription Drugs are Often NOT the Best Solution

The eye-opening report by Gary Null and colleagues revealed that 2.2 million people suffer from adverse drug reactions to prescribed medications while in a hospital each year. For those taking prescribed medications on their own, at home, side effects also run rampant.

healthy lifestyle

You can prevent many of the chronic diseases that prescription drugs are meant to treat by leading a healthy lifestyle.

Reuters reported a study of nearly 10,000 adults who used at least three opioid painkiller prescriptions within a 90-day period to treat chronic pain. Fifty-one of them experienced at least one overdose and six died as a result. Further, as Reuters reported, the higher the dosage, the more likely an overdose was to occur.

At the root of the problem is that many prescription drugs are vastly over-prescribed for conditions that often can be relieved or prevented through natural lifestyle modifications. The authors of the “Death by Medicine” report state:

“Medicine is not taking into consideration the following monumentally important aspects of a healthy human organism:

(a) Stress and how it adversely affects the immune system and life processes

(b) Insufficient exercise

(c) Excessive caloric intake

(d) Highly-processed and denatured foods grown in denatured and chemically-damaged soil

(e) Exposure to tens of thousands of environmental toxins.

Instead of minimizing these disease-causing factors, we actually cause more illness through medical technology, diagnostic testing, overuse of medical and surgical procedures, and overuse of pharmaceutical drugs. The huge disservice of this therapeutic strategy is the result of little effort or money being appropriated for preventing disease.”

And therein lies the key: if you want to prevent disease you need to take steps to live a health-promoting life, and here’s how …

4 Steps to a Healthier Life

Ideally, the best way to reduce your risk of having an adverse reaction to a drug is to limit your exposure to them in the first place. This is something that can (and should) be done as a matter of course throughout your life by:

  1. Eat plenty of health-promoting fresh and raw foods, and limit processed junk foods. As you switch over to more fresh foods, take advantage of the healthy and absolutely delicious recipes in the book “Alive in 5”: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes.

    When prepared with locally grown ingredients from a source you trust, these are among some of the healthiest meals you can eat.

    Most everyone also agrees that monounsaturated fats, the kind found in avocados, olive oil, and nuts, and omega-3 fats, the kind found in fish and fish oils and flaxseeds, are exceptionally healthy and should definitely be included in your diet.

  2. Get enough sleep every night. Once you are in bed, listen to relaxing music to help you "shift gears" and relax into sleep.

  3. Keep stress to a minimum. For times when you need help putting your mind at ease, by calming your mind and soothe your emotions with deep slow breathing relaxation techniques and meditation.

  4. Exercise regularly. Find an exercise program you can do right from your own home.

Might you be better off seeking to stop the cause of your symptoms, rather than taking unnecessary medications?

When you focus on replacing the cause of the illness, instead of reaching for a cure for the symptom, you are addressing your health issues by eliminating the root source, snuffing it out like fingertips squelching a flame. Then, there is no need for a cure.

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Sources November 26, 2003 May 19, 2010

JAMA. 1998 Apr 15;279(15):1200-5

The Kaiser Family Foundation

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