FDA potential problem drug list is just the tip of the iceberg

pillsThe news has been widely circulated regarding a new list of potential problem drugs, which has been published by the Food and Drug Administration.

What is not being widely addressed however, are the reasons for the list and what is (or is not) being done about the named pharmaceuticals which appear on it. The first potential problem drug list, which contains some names as familiar as insulin, Ivermectin and nitroglycerin, is a simple table of drug names and the "potential" problems which may be occurring with them.

Pharmaceutical industry pundits are quick to assert that the appearance of a drug's name on the list is not to be interpreted as indicating an actual problem with the drug or its use. They assert that the list merely names drugs which have generated reports of concern from hospitals, doctors, and patients.

The potential problem drug list from the FDA has been created and published in response to congressional efforts to improve drug safety requirements. However, this list, in its reactionary context, may be seen as the equivalent to putting an ambulance at the bottom of a dangerous cliff. The list shall most likely serve as a liability diluting tool in regard to pharmacological accidents. That, after the damage has already been done. I see it as a glad-hand strategy in service of the pharmaceutical industry's apparent attitude that society is populated with expendable human lab rats.

According to an article attributed to Peter Montague, the editor of Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly, research indicates that as of 1998, approximately 106,000 people are killed each year in the US, by prescription drugs. The article states: "Of the 106,000 people killed each year by prescription drugs in the U.S., 41% (43,000) were admitted to the hospital because of an adverse drug reaction; the other 59% (63,000 people) were hospitalized for some other cause but developed a fatal reaction to prescription drugs they received while hospitalized."

It can be argued that it is impossible to prevent every adverse drug reaction which might occur in the population. An example is the case when my wife had a dangerous allergic reaction to a specific antibiotic. There was no way of knowing ahead of time that she would react negatively to that specific medication. Additionally, it's certainly impossible to conclusively test for every potential undesirable drug interaction, when individuals are advised to take two or more medications at the same time. The question remains though, are drug manufacturers doing enough to ensure patient safety?

Pharmaceutical companies are generally quick to point out that medication related deaths are most often the result of problems associated with the dispensing of these drugs, not the drugs themselves. Incorrect prescribing, incorrect dosage, confusing product labels, and unexpected reactions between multiple drugs, highlight the need for increased vigilance by the medical community when trying to keep up with the pace at which new medications are flooding the market. To what degree should drug manufacturers be expected to educate and inform medical practitioners and the public regarding safe drug usage? To what degree are drug manufacturers responsible for medication related deaths? How much vigilance is enough?

In light of the absolute explosion of pharmaceutical related deaths over the last few years, does good conscience dictate that drug regulators should review and revise the 1997 drug marketing "fast track" which was provided to big pharmaceutical companies? Do drug manufacturers need to provide a greater depth of safety for consumers? Should drug manufacturers assume greater liability for the products they produce? I believe that they should, and I'm guessing that 106,000 potential dead people annually, might want you to think about it just a little bit.
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