Saturday, June 9, 2012

Memo to the Medical Profession: 34,450

Hey Docs, you’re killing us!  Let’s talk about iatrogenic problems in our country.  'Iatrogenic' as defined by Dorland's Medical Dictionary means “resulting from the activity of physicians; said of any adverse condition in a patient resulting from treatment by a physician or surgeon.”
Before I present facts regarding the second leading cause of death in our country, I think it’s important to place some perspective on my comments.  Think of  9/11 and the death of three thousand of our fellow citizens. Think of the consequences of those deaths; two wars and the deaths of several thousands of young men and women fighting those wars on our behalf.  Yet, these tragic figures (I do not want anyone reading this thinking for one second that I am minimizing the deaths of  9/11 victims, the brave firefighters police officers or soldiers) actually pale in comparison to the annual deaths caused by three percent of the doctors in our country who over-prescribe narcotics to patients. 

The CDC issued a report late last year and, admittedly, I have cherry-picked the findings of that report to emphasize the seriousness of the problem.  The report states (in part):
"Prescription drug overdoses in the United States has worsened over the last decade.  In 2008, drug overdose deaths (36,450) were approaching the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes (39,973), the leading cause of injury death in the United States. By 2010, enough narcotic opioid-type drugs, including the ever popular Xanax were sold to medicate every American adult with a typical dose of 5 mg of hydrocodone every 4 hours for 1 month. Three percent (3%) of physicians accounted for 62% of the opioids prescribed in one study.  For example, large increases in overdoses involving the types of drugs sold by illegitimate pain clinics (i.e., "pill mills") have been reported in Florida  and Texas. Such clinics provide opioid-type drugs to large volumes of patients without adequate evaluation or follow-up."  Source (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers --- United States, 1999—2008 November 4, 2011 / 60(43);1487-1492
Please note that I am emphasizing only the prescription of narcotic-type drugs in this writing.  The problem of iatrogeny is actually much greater.  For example, in 1995, a report in JAMA said, "Over a million patients are injured in U.S. hospitals each year, and approximately 280,000 die annually as a result of these injuries. Therefore, the iatrogenic death rate dwarfs the annual automobile accident mortality rate of 45,000 and accounts for more deaths than all other accidents combined."  
Hey Docs.  Remember the number; 36,540
Just saying . . .

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