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Inappropriate Prescribing

The above headline came from April 3rd, 2000 site. This article points out a large problem caused by the rate at which Americans use prescribed drugs. In the article it states that last year alone an estimated one and a half million Americans were admitted to hospitals suffering from adverse side effects of medications. Dr. Brian Strom of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine commented "We have an epidemic of death due to problematic prescribing in the United States."

One of the problems cited in the article is that newer drugs with little track record are replacing older ones. The comments made in the article call for reflection as they suggest human experimentation on a large scale. "Some doctors are prescribing new drugs rather than older more established ones. Only when a drug is on the market for several years, and used by hundreds of thousands of people, however, are its risks well understood." Does this mean that drugs are prescribed on a large scale before enough data is obtained to fully understand the harmful effects?

Several MDs interviewed claim the drug sales people are partially to blame promoting drugs immediately upon release before the doctor has a chance to understand them. "There are sales representatives in your office the day the drug is released on the market encouraging you to use it and saying no one uses that old stuff anymore," says Dr. Jerry Avorn of the Harvard Medical School.

In spite of these numbers Reuters Health news service reported on April 20, 2000 that Medical doctors wrote 9% more prescriptions in 1999 than in 1998. That translated out to each medical physician writing an average of 2060 prescriptions in 1999 alone. As high as this number seems it only accounted for 53.5% of prescriptions written. According to the report, the bulk of the remainder of prescriptions were written by nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.