A new report from the ISMP (Institute for Safe Medication Practices) shows that medication-related deaths are on the rise in the United States.

According to the recent ISMP QuarterWatch report based on all adverse event reports submitted to the FDA in 2012, 45,421 patient deaths were linked to medications last year. To put this into perspective, last year 35,000 Americans died from auto accidents and 16,000 died from homicide.

Roughly one-third of the reported deaths have been linked to three cancer medications: Avastin, Tarceva, and Xeloda. “The underlying reason for much of the increase was a large group of patient deaths associated with three drugs for typically fatal metastatic cancers, cases in which a drug role was either not suspected or investigated,” the report states.

Experts agree that the actual number of medication-related deaths is likely significantly higher, as only 1% to 10% of medication adverse events are reported to the FDA.  To many, the dramatic rise in deaths linked to medications could point out problems with the requirements for the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS).

Despite the increase in reported deaths, experts found that fewer doctors are reporting adverse events to the FDA and that the increase actually reflects more reports submitted by drug makers themselves. Some critics suggest that pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers are more eager to report adverse events so that they can put their own “spin” on them to deflect the FDA’s blame from their products.

In many cases, reports of patient deaths that come from drug makers are submitted with little to no detail, so it is unclear whether these medications were actually the cause of patient deaths. ISMP warns that this trend could lead to false numbers.

In 2012, the drugs that appeared in the most adverse event reports were the common blood thinners Pradaxa and Coumadin, which pose a high risk of internal bleeding. Fosamax, a drug designed to strengthen a patient’s bones, also figured prominently in reports.

The dangerous drug lawyers at the national personal injury firm Berkowitz and Hanna LLC are dedicated to helping patients and families who have suffered serious injury or the wrongful death of a loved one due to medications recover full and just compensation for their damages. If you would like to learn more about plaintiffs’ rights in personal injury lawsuits, contact us today for a free legal consultation.