Adverse Drug Reactions and hospital tort claims

Would tort restrictions reduce the cost of health care? Or perhaps malpractice insurance/claims are also related to the grip of Big Pharma?

Compiled by The I.O. staff

A figure that pops up when one “googles” the number of pharmaceuticalrelated - or “ADR” (adverse drug reaction) - deaths is 227,000 per year. However, reports that there’s no way of knowing exactly what the number of ADR deaths is because not all are identified as pharmaceutical-related.

Charles Bennet, a Northwestern University haematologist who has researched adverse drug effects for many years, estimates that physicians report only one of every ten ADRs.

“Our source for the 227,000 deaths-peryear estimate came from the Wellness of Chicago Newsletter (no date or issue number given on the web site). It’s simply titled ‘Newsletter.’” It states. “This report combines a number of different sources that examine deaths due to ADR.”

Analysing numbers from a University of Toronto research project reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a 1998 study that appeared in the prestigious British journal Lancet, and a College of Pharmacy study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, Wellness of Chicago extrapolated the 227,000 figure, noting that, “it can be considered an approximation only.” From different sources you’ll get different estimates. The JAMA study, for instance, pointed out that if their analysis was figured conservatively, the estimate might go as low as 76,000 deaths per year. At that rate, fatalities due to ADRs would be the sixth leading cause of death in the US alone.

Wellness of Chicago estimates that deaths due to herbal and dietary supplements number six or seven each year. Can you imagine the FDA repercussion if that number was anywhere near 76,000? reported Hearst Newspapers Prints Results of a Groundbreaking Medical Malpractice Investigation: “Richard Flagg drowned in his own blood. Stanley Stinnett choked on his own vomit. Both were victims of the leading cause of accidental death in America: Mistakes made in medical care. “Experts estimate that a staggering 98,000 people die from preventable medical errors each year. More Americans die each month of preventable medical injuries than died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,” Hearst reported in its new series, Dead by Mistake. A team of journalists and journalism students from Columbia University reportedly got their statistics from “thousands of pages of documents, disciplinary files, lawsuits, governmental, medical and other public and private reports,” wrote Cricket Diane.

She asserts that the Hearst series’ release couldn’t be more timely as Congress discusses medical liability issues in the health care bills, and that the report makes it clear that medical malpractice is a nationwide epidemic affecting patients in every state, and every age and income level. In the last ten years alone approximately 2 million Americans have died needlessly of preventable medical mistakes. And those numbers are on the rise. The series demonstrates that the problem with medical malpractice isn’t the lawsuits; it’s the amount of medical malpractice itself.

This is no time to further insulate negligent health care providers from liability, especially since limiting patients’ rights will barely make a dent in overall health care expenditures.

According to the consumer group,, Americans for Insurance Reform just released a new study that debunks the myth that insurance premium increases for doctors are driven by whether or not a state limits patients’ rights, or that limiting injured patients’ access to the courthouse would have any real effect on overall health costs.

The study found that medical malpractice premiums and claims combined are less than one-third of one percent of the country’s overall health care costs, and that medical malpractice insurer profits are higher than the rest of the property casualty industry, which has been remarkably profitable over the last five years.

Ironically, Richard Flagg was not just a malpractice victim. He was a tireless advocate for patients’ rights. Before his death due to medical malpractice, Richard traveled twice to Washington, D.C. with the Center for Justice & Democracy to ensure that the legal rights of patients were not limited with “caps” and other socalled “tort reforms.” His powerful messages, and others, ensured that Congress and the Bush Administration did not take away patients’ rights. Let not his death go unavenged.

The entire Hearst collection of stories can be found at The site includes state-by-state analysis of “adverse event” reporting policies, and much more.