Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews From the Frontline

The painful truth: deaths and misuse of prescribed drugs

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 16 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7403
  1. Des Spence, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. destwo{at}

Michael Jackson’s physician has been found guilty of his unlawful killing, just another medical fatality. The United States reports that some 12 000 of its residents die annually from unintended prescription drug overdoses,1 twice the total number of US soldiers killed in Iraq. In Florida in 2008, prescription opioids killed almost twice as many people as cocaine, crystal meth, heroin, and alcohol combined.2 Data indicate that for every death from prescription drugs another 800 people are misusing these drugs. The rising death rate is linked causally to a 300% increase in the …

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