If you want to have a serious health problem, one of the surest ways is to take a prescription drug. That's not just me talking. That's what the Archives of Internal Medicine published last month. According to the article, adverse drug reactions increased by 157% from 1998 to 2005.

In 1998, prescription drugs caused 34,966 injuries. In 2005, that number skyrocketed to 89,842. Deaths rose from 5,519 to 15,105 (174%) in the same period. Amazingly, 20% of the drugs prescribed accounted for 87.1% of the adverse effects. The biggest offenders were common painkillers and arthritis drugs that "modify" the immune system.

Thomas Moore of the Institute for Safe Medicine says, "The clear finding is that we are losing ground in terms of drug safety, and that ought to be of great concern." Both the FDA and drug company trade groups admit the numbers are increasing. They are writing it off by saying the increase is due to a rise in voluntary reporting.

However, studies estimate that only 3-33% victims report their drug reactions. The ones that they typically report include death, birth defects, disability, hospitalization, or an event that requires intervention to prevent harm. But people rarely report those that don't require immediate medical attention.

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What's more telling is that doctor prescriptions rose 25% during these seven years. More prescriptions lead to more injury and death.

While these numbers seem high, they are actually ridiculously low. Why? Because ignorant doctors just can't see the forest for the trees. Many people get strange problems while on drugs. I've treated hundreds of patients who heard this from their physicians: "I can't understand why you're worsening or having this new problem." Drug interactions are about impossible to identify unless you look for them and pay close attention to your patients.

The most hideous example of this problem I've seen was with my friend Dr. Jim Shortt. You might remember the national news on him. He had treated a woman with intravenous hydrogen peroxide on a Tuesday. On Saturday, she was admitted to the hospital with disseminated intravascular coagulation and died.

The forensic pathologist, Clay Nichols, MD, blamed the peroxide from 5 days before. I read his report. In my opinion, he was grossly negligent when he omitted mentioning that the woman was taking the drugs Copaxone and Tegretol. Copaxone has listed side effects identical to her presentation. And she received the injection the day before she succumbed. Peroxide was NEVER reported to do such a thing. Tegretol can damage the liver. Dr. Nichols' negligence destroyed Dr. Shortt's career.

I assure you that there are hundreds of thousands of adverse reactions to drugs each year that we never know about. While thousands are dying from drugs, perhaps less than a handful in 20 years suffers any ill effects from any supplements other than perhaps Ephedra and a contaminated batch of tryptophan. And where is all the attention in Congress, the FDA and the media? On the supplements.

Action to take: Send this report to your elected officials. Demand they take their hands off of supplements. Demand that they never tamper with your God-given liberty to mend and minister healing to yourself. Tell the medical boards to clean up unsafe drug practices BEFORE they attack alternatives that cause no harm.

If you're on drugs, talk to your integrative physician about natural alternatives. There is almost always one available. I will continue to seek out new alternatives to prescription drugs and report them in these Health Alerts and in the pages of Second Opinion

Ref: Archives of Internal Medicine, September 10, 2007.

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