Motor vehicle accidents once held the title, but now prescription pain killers are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, poisoning took the top spot after 41,000 Americans died compared to 38,000 in car accidents. Of those who died from poisoning, 90% were a direct result of drugs. Since 1980, the percentage of deaths caused by drugs jumped from 56% to 89%.
In the United States, one third of Americans take two or more prescription drugs. In fact, more people die from pain relievers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin than cocaine and heroin combined. From 1991 to 2010, pain killer prescriptions have increased from 75 million to over 200 million, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Due to the increase in deaths linked to prescription drugs, states are putting laws in place to protect people. States have implemented systems to monitor prescription drugs, such as insurers demanding doctors justify pain pills that exceed a 30-day supply. Pharmacies are also refusing to stock painkillers due to the increase in armed robberies.
Several wholesalers in Florida have been suspended in the last year, including Cardinal Health in Lakeland for failing to detect suspicious order volume from several pharmacy customers. Overprescribing and pharmacy errors are also on the rise in the United States.
Some of these deaths can also be caused by defective and dangerous medications. Prescription and over-the-counter medications are intended to improve your quality of life. The Food and Drug Administration is the governmental agency that oversees drug manufacturers and serves as a gatekeeper to introducing new drugs to U.S. patients. The FDA may approve a drug or device it believes to be safe, only to add warnings of potential serious side effects or completely recall the drug or device at a later time.
Despite this oversight, many people are injured and even killed by dangerous medical devices and defective drugs each year. People also fail to follow doctor recommendations, and
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Source: Gawker, "Prescription Painkillers Now the Leading Cause of Accidental Deaths," June 19, 2012.
Reuters, "War on Drugs Moves to pharmacy from Jungle," June, 16, 2012.