Popping so many pills is killing us

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What will it take for France to get serious about regulating prescription drugs? asked Sauveur Boukris. We French love to take pills; we are the biggest consumers of medicines in Europe. French doctors “tend to prescribe far more heavily” than their foreign colleagues, dispensing four or five drugs to treat any given malady, while German or Dutch doctors prescribe two or three.

Perhaps that reflects the influence of our pharmaceutical industry, which relentlessly promotes its new products and seems to have almost total “control over our health authorities.” Whatever the reason, our love of meds is bad for our health. Adverse reactions to prescription drugs cause more than 130,000 hospitalizations a year and kill some 9,000 people—twice as many as die in car accidents.

Just this week, another faulty drug was exposed. The Health ’ Ministry says the diabetes drug Mediator, which was used by millions as an appetite suppressant until it was taken off the market last year, may have killed 500 people by damaging their heart valves. Anyone who took it is now urged to get a cardiac checkup. Why wasn’t this disastrous side effect discovered in drug trials? Could it be because “authorities are more concerned about the economic interests of pharmaceutical firms” than about public health?