Prescription Drug Deaths Double In A Decade

Deaths from adverse reactions to prescription drugs have more than doubled in 10 years, new figures show.

Statistics from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) reveal 973 people died from suspected serious side-effects last year, compared to 382 in 1996.

The MHRA figures also show there were 9,801 cases between May and December last year of patients having a serious, suspected adverse reaction to the drugs they were prescribed.

Experts fear an increasing number of such drugs and a lack of training could be contributing to the rise in deaths. Dr Peter Maguire, of the British Medical Association, said the figures should be a “wake-up call”. He also questioned why trainee doctors were being taught less pharmacology.

Prof Saad Shakir, the director of the drug safety research unit at Southampton University, called for a greater emphasis on drug safety training.

He said: “Over the years, there has been a reduction in the focus on pharmacology and drug safety, both in undergraduate and postgraduate training. I think that needs to be rectified.

“Complex medicines are welcome because they are meeting a need but, at the same time, we need to put in place measures to ensure we detect hazards when they happen, and do that as early as possible.”

Dr June Raine, the director of vigilance and risk management at the MHRA, said: “The figures show some important trends and it is right that we are concerned about them, but all medicines carry a risk as well as important benefits. “

Doctors were more motivated to report any adverse reactions, and patients could report them directly to the agency, Dr Raine said, but she also called on the pharmaceutical industry to take a more active role.

“We want to use more robust types of study and data, and we are obliging the manufacturing industry to conduct its own studies in risk management,” she said.