Some news items say so much all on their own.

pills in shape of USA

Almost one-third of new drugs approved by U.S. regulators over a decade ended up years later with warnings about unexpected, sometimes life-threatening side effects or complications, a new analysis found.

The results covered all 222 prescription drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 2001 through 2010. The researchers looked at potential problems that cropped up during routine monitoring that’s done once a medicine is on the market. The 71 flagged drugs included top-sellers for treating depression, arthritis, infections and blood clots. Safety issues included risks for serious skin reactions, liver damage, cancer and even death.

“The large percentage of problems was a surprise,” and they included side effects not seen during the review process, said Dr. Joseph Ross, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of medicine and public health at Yale University.

Actually, we think the surprise would be drugs that had no unintended consequences.

As Dr. V sees it, the whole concept of “side effects” is a kind of illusion. Drugs have effects, full stop. Some of those effects are desirable; others, not so much. All of them are a result of the action of the drug.

Each year, thousands of Americans die from pharmaceutical drugs – and more than a million are “injured.” Some cases are from abusing the drugs; some are from error; and a great many are, in fact, from taking medications exactly as prescribed.

While most safety concerns were not serious enough to prompt recalls, the findings raise questions about how thoroughly drugs are tested before approval, said drug safety expert Thomas Moore. But Ross said the results suggest that the FDA “is kind of doing a great job” at scrutinizing drugs after approval.

Oh, well, that’s a relief!

polypharmacy cartoonAnd if it doesn’t make you feel better, no doubt, they have a pill for that.

And that points to another problem with throwing drugs at disease: You easily wind up throwing yet more drugs at their unwelcome “side effects,” which have their own “side effects,” which can be treated with more drugs, ad infinitum.

According to the CDC, nearly 22% of Americans take 3 or more prescription drugs each month. Nearly 11% take 5 or more. Roughly three-quarters of all doctor visits involve drug therapy.

But while those drugs may do wonders at silencing painful or disturbing symptoms, they do absolutely nothing to treat what’s causing them. Meanwhile, their actions further pollute and disorder the biological terrain, deepening illness and giving rise to even more symptoms and new diagnoses. Oh, and more drugs.

And we wonder why health outcomes are so much worse here in the US than in other industrialized nations.

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