Death by Medicine

"Death by Medicine"

New Paper Indicts American Medical System

"Death by Medicine"1 is an eye-opening paper published as a Web exclusive in the March 2004 issue of Life Extension, a monthly magazine dedicated to "up-to-date coverage of the latest scientific and medical breakthroughs from around the world." As the grim title suggests, the paper explores the hazards of conventional medicine in the United States, analyzing and combining the complete published literature to date regarding injuries and deaths attributable to medicine.

In their introduction, the authors note: "Never before have the complete statistics on the multiple causes of iatrogenesis been combined in one paper. Medical science amasses tens of thousands of papers annually - each one a tiny fragment of the whole picture.... Each specialty, each division of medicine, keeps their own records and data on morbidity and mortality like pieces of a puzzle. But the numbers and statistics were always hiding in plain sight. We have now completed the painstaking work of reviewing thousands and thousands of studies. Finally putting the puzzle together, we came up with some disturbing answers."

The "disturbing answers" the five researchers uncover are an indictment of the entire American medical system:

  • "The total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine is an astounding 783,936 per year."
  • "The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million."
  • "Richard Besser, of the CDC, in 1995, said the number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections was 20 million. Dr. Besser, in 2003, now refers to tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotics."
  • "The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million."
  • "The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million."
  • "It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States."

The authors are especially concerned that "as few as 5% and only up to 20% of iatrogenic acts are ever reported." They also project that the costs associated with deaths caused by medical interventions total approximately $282 billion per year, and estimate that the costs for unnecessary hospitalization and medical procedures total $16.4 million per year.

As if this information isn't startling enough, the paper goes on to review the drug industry world. The authors discuss the dangers of many types of drugs and how their overuse is affecting our health and our environment. Next, they discuss the dangers of surgical procedures, the lack of error reporting and unnecessary hospitalization. The paper concludes with a discussion of how women are mistreated by medicine, and the dangers awaiting the unsuspecting elderly: "A total of 20% of all deaths from all causes occur in nursing homes."

The complete text of "Death by Medicine" can be found online at More than 150 references and an extensive appendix support the discussions and conclusions presented in this paper. While many will find it quite disturbing, every health care provider and every patient should read this paper.


Gary Null, PhD, Carolyn Dean, MD ND, Martin Feldman, MD, Debora Rasio, MD, Dorothy Smith, PhD. "Death by Medicine." Life Extension March 2004 (Web exclusive).
LE Magazine March 2004


Dangerous Medicine

The FDA claims that the drugs it approves are safe. This charade is rapidly collapsing. PBS television's investigative series Frontline has aired a shocking expose' of dangerous prescription drugs and the FDA's complicity in allowing this outrage to occur.1

The Frontline producers initially investigated drugs that had been withdrawn from the market. After filming began, current and former FDA employees started coming forward to give a powerful critique of what really goes on inside the agency. As the story evolved, rather than making a documentary about drug safety, Frontline ended up shifting its focus to the FDA itself.

A major emphasis of the documentary was the FDA's reliance on drug companies research of their own products to determine safety. As Frontline found out, the FDA does not conduct clinical trials, because the agency is not in the business of conducting medical research. The FDA instead reviews the results submitted by pharmaceutical companies. This means that the basis for FDA approval of a new drug is often safety data provided by the very company that makes the drug!

Frontline exposed this questionable drug approval sham to the world in a one-hour broadcast aired November 17, 2003. It was FDA drug reviewers who made the most appalling disclosures. These current and former FDA employees revealed incidences in which drug dangers were clearly present but were ignored or covered up by higher-level FDA officials. Only after many injuries and deaths were these drugs withdrawn or relabeled. A survey of all FDA employees showed a significant number felt they were pressured by others in the agency to give favorable reviews to dangerous and ineffective drugs.

The most absurd part of this saga is the FDA's historical record of attempting to restrict consumers access to dietary supplements. The FDA deceitfully implies that supplements have hidden dangers. Yet the data supporting the safety and efficacy of nutrients usually come from independent sources, as opposed to the company-sponsored studies the FDA relies on to certify drug safety.

Frontline showed that in too many cases, the safety data supplied by drug companies are flawed and altered, with the result being an alarming number of injuries and deaths from prescription drug toxicities (side effects). Deaths from adverse drug reactions have become so commonplace that they rarely make the news.

For the past 18 years, Life Extension has harshly criticized this corrupt system of drug approval. What Life Extension lacked was the inside data gathered by Frontline that show specifically how the FDA conspires with the drug industry to approve dangerous drugs. Even more disturbing are instances in which the FDA allows toxic drugs to remain on the market even after injuries and deaths are reported. If the FDA had even a vestige of credibility remaining about its role of protecting the public against dangerous drugs, this Frontline documentary tore it to shreds. The emperor (the FDA) clearly has no clothes (credibility).

Drugs Often Do Not Work

In a stunning admission, a senior executive with Britain's largest pharmaceutical company has stated that most prescription medicines do not work on half the patients who take them.

Dr. Allen Roses is worldwide vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline. He is a world-class pioneer in the branch of medicine that studies the relationship between our genes and our response to individual drugs. On December 8, 2003, a British newspaper quoted Dr. Roses telling a scientific conference in London: The vast majority of drugs only work in 30 to 50% of the people. 2. Dr. Roses predicted that in a few years, scientists would be able to give patients a simple genetics test that would predict which medicines would work for them. Drug companies could use the information to tailor new drugs aimed at the 50% of people not helped.

It is an open secret within the pharmaceutical industry that most of its products are ineffective in most patients, but this is the first time that such a senior drug boss has gone public. Dr. Roses admission corroborates what FDA reviewers told Frontline not only are many dangerous drugs wrongfully approved, but they often are only minimally effective!

Consumers Partially Prevail Against Codex

While adverse effects from regulated prescription drugs are a leading cause of death, governments mislead their citizens with the bizarre notion that dietary supplements are somehow dangerous. The European Union is aggressively seeking to set maximum upper-limit potencies for vitamin-mineral supplements, even though supplements used by citizens in its member countries have not demonstrated a health risk.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) was established to review and evaluate nutrients to determine what potencies are safe for human ingestion. The objective is to harmonize these maximum upper-limit potencies to guard consumers around the world against the purported risks of vitamins.

After years of deliberations, Codex was on the verge of adopting the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) as the maximum potency allowable in dietary supplements. This would have resulted in nutrient products so low in potency that the consumer would obtain virtually no benefit. For instance, the upper safe limit for vitamin B6 could have been as low as 2 milligrams, which would not provide the positive effects that have been documented in the published scientific literature.

Codex was about to outlaw high-potency supplements. Vitamin consumers in Europe were backed into a corner. Only one hope remained.

The Life Extension Foundation joined forces with the Nutrition Institute of America to conduct the enormous task of reviewing every single study on 40 different dietary supplements. An overview on each supplement was written, followed by the voluminous abstracts that supported the claims made in the overview. More than 7,000 scientific abstracts that described both preventive and therapeutic potencies were submitted to the Codex commission along with the overviews.

The good news is that the Codex committee responsible for developing international guidelines for vitamin-mineral potency reached a consensus that maximum levels for supplements should be based on scientific risk assessment and not on the politically inspired RDA.3

The debate over using science as opposed to the RDAs has been raging at Codex since the mid-1990s. While this is only partial progress, it could help when the full Codex Commission meets in Geneva in June 2004.

The 7,000 abstracts we submitted to Codex, along with the overviews on 40 different supplements, can be viewed by logging on to

How Low Codex Wanted to Go

Codex sought to restrict the maximum potencies to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of each vitamin-mineral. These RDAs are determined by governmental committees and represent the bare minimum an individual needs to sustain life.

RDA's are calibrated in terms of deficiency syndromes, rather than optimal intakes for disease prevention. The RDAs represent a bare minimum floor and are by no means an upper-limit ceiling.

Several years ago, the US government changed the definition to Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI), which is the amount it believes to be essential in human nutrition. When making decisions concerning the RDA's or RDI's, governments give little consideration to what potency is needed to achieve optimal health.


1. Dangerous prescription [transcript]. Frontline. PBS television. November 17, 2003.
2. Glaxo chief: our drugs do not work on most patients. The Independent. December 8, 2003.
3. Reynolds R. RDAs and safe upper levels are more political than scientific: an interview with Professor Robert Reynolds of the University of Illinois at Chicago [ website]. February 14, 2001. Available at: http://www.supple Accessed December 22, 2003.
4. Null G, Dean C, Feldman M, Rasio D, Smith D. Death by medicine. Paper released by: The Nutrition Institute of America; October 2003; New York, NY.
5. U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Report, vol. 52, no. 9, November 7, 2003. Available at: nvsr52_09p9.pdf. Accessed December 22, 2003.
6. Available at: Accessed December 31, 2003.

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