PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Dangerous Lack of Info for Consumers
In part two of a two-part series on the dangers of prescription drugs, the New York Times takes a look at the "voluntary" system currently in place to warn patients of side effects. The ad hoc system, which involves distributing "patient information leaflets" typically produced by unregulated private companies, is the result of "more than two decades" of political pressure from drug companies and pharmacists to block a standardized FDA system, the Times reports. Analysts estimate that more than 100,000 hospital patients are killed by adverse drug reactions each year, and 2.2 million more are injured. Government regulators are doing what they can to address what they see as a deficit of information: Just this week, the FDA implemented regulations requiring pharmaceutical companies to publish "Medguides" for up to 10 especially risky drugs. In addition, HHS requires that "75% of all prescriptions must be accompanied by leaflets that contain 'useful' information by next year; by 2006, the figure must rise to 95%." The FDA's Dr. Nancy Ostrove said, "Congress specifically said that we could not implement a comprehensive program, but we felt that there was sufficient support for us to insure that people taking these special drugs were warned" (Stolberg, 6/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.