Time and time again, experts call for reduced usage of antibiotics, but MDs keep handing them out like Halloween candy. It’s a scary practice that can lead to even scarier results.
You could safely state that any medical intervention is going to create a whole list of harmful effects. These harmful effects have been called “side effects” as though they are something we shouldn’t worry about. Death is almost always one of the side effects associated with all medications. Of course, it’s considered to be a rare occurrence, but is it when we consider the volume of drugs that are consumed in some cases. Take antibiotics for instance. Anaphylactic shock leading to death is considered to be a very rare occurrence with antibiotics, but when the number of prescriptions equals the 260 million doses prescribed each year in the US alone, the yearly death toll becomes an average of 79,560 deaths from anaphylactic shock. Death rates due to anaphylactic shock vary from one class of antibiotics to another. Penicillin is still the most commonly prescribed antibiotic and anaphylactic rates range from .04-.011. If we take 12% of the 260 million doses as being representative of the antibiotic penicillin known to frequently cause anaphylaxis, we get about 31.2 million doses of antibiotics. Multiply that by the .04-.011 and we get between 1.248 million and 343,000 cases of anaphylactic reactions. Of these, 10% will be fatal giving a final death toll of somewhere between 124,800 and 34,320 deaths. At 124,800 deaths, antibiotic-induced anaphylactic deaths would be the #4 cause of death in the United States, and at 34,320, antibiotic-induced anaphylactic deaths would be about the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. These are the kind of numbers you’re not ever likely to hear about. Why is that?
The world pharmaceutical market is valued at close to $1 Trillion dollars in 2012. Americans provide almost $500 billion dollars worth of that income with no price limits in place to control how much drugs cost Americans. Antibiotics are the 2nd most commonly prescribed class of drugs in theU.S. Such a high death rate is probably not something that anyone would want to publicize, especially since the volume is enormous.
Another statistic increases these numbers. In hospitals, 190 million doses of antibiotics are administered EACH DAY according to the American College of Physicians. Applying the same statistical analysis, I would come up with an additional range of between 91,200 and 25,080 deaths, daily. Combined, the range of outright antibiotic-induced deaths would be in excess of 20 million people yearly. That seems unlikely and of course, these numbers assume that the previous .04-.011% estimate of anaphylactic reactions is accurate, and that 10% of these lead to deaths. Not included in these figures are the other common sources of antibiotic anaphylaxis and the lesser known ones which can lead to 3-5000 deaths per year for each class of antibiotics. In the end, it adds up quickly and reveals numbers that are never discussed.
Imagine the results in a country like China that uses 10 times the amount of antibiotics that America uses. With antibiotics linked to some of the more common causes of disease and death (obesity, diabetes, cancers, life-threatening colitis, etc), we can expect to see even more deaths globally with these growing trends. Responsibility for these trends continues to be passed onto patients, as though they were the ones responsible for the prescriptions. Perhaps, we are if we continue to accept the knee-jerk response that leads to millions of necessary prescriptions each year. With the call for physicians to reduce their over-prescribing practices now going into its third decade, it’s unlikely that this practice will stop anytime soon. In the end, it will be the educated patient who decides for himself what is best.
So the next time your MD tries to scare you into taking drugs, let him know that Halloween is for children and drugs are for those who are easily scared. BOO!
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