Thousands died from reaction to drugsNew figures show 3,000 died in last three years

28 December 2007

Nearly 3,000 patients died in the past three years because of adverse reactions to drugs they thought would make them better, according to new figures.

The patients suffered allergic reactions to, or serious side-effects from, medicines which proved fatal, official figures revealed.

More than 13,000 others needed long-term hospital treatment for the effects of their reaction, but survived.

Investigation

Liberal Democrats health spokesman Norman Lamb, who obtained the statistics through Parliament called for a 'full investigation' of the problem.

He said the numbers killed or injured by allergic reactions to drugs were growing.

'This is a dangerously escalating problem, which is putting lives at risk and placing a big cost burden on the NHS. This situation will only get worse as the number of older people receiving a lot of medication increases in coming years.

'Doctors have a duty not to over-prescribe drugs, in a bid to meet government "treatment targets" on long-term conditions.'

Inquiry urged

He said he had written to the Health Secretary Alan Johnson, to urge an inquiry.

Last year, 964 patients died because of suspected drug reactions, 203 after long term hospital treatment.

In 2005, more than 1,000 patients died from similar suspected reasons. Some 861 died in 2004.

Adverse drug reactions

The figures for adverse drug reactions (ADRs) describe patients who have an adverse reaction to prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines and those on sale in shops across the entire UK.

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo told the House of Commons earlier this month: '...it is important to note that the submission of a suspected ADR report does not necessarily mean that it was caused by the drug.

'Many factors have to be taken into account in assessing causal relationships including temporal association, the possible contribution of concomitant medication and the underlying disease.'

A Department of Health spokeswoman referred queries to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which collates the figures.

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