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News1990April › It's official: medicine has never harmed anyone, ever, no way › April 1990

It's official: medicine has never harmed anyone, ever, no way

We all know that statistics can be our flexible friend

We all know that statistics can be our flexible friend. They can be used to support almost any theory and, if we're of a perverse disposition, they can even give some approximation to what really happened.

One set of figures, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and quoted ever after, shows that medicine is the fourth main killer in the USA, and that the number of deaths from a prescription drug has been likened to a jumbo jet crashing every other day.

So it's time for a new set of statistics. These, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, see the mysterious disappearance of medicine and drugs from the picture altogether. Instead, people are dying from the diseases themselves, with heart disease heading the pile, followed by cancer. In fact, disease accounts for nine of the top 10 causes of death, with injury being the one exception. Presumably, everyone in the list, which tracked deaths across the USA during the year 2000, was being treated for their disease, but that's clearly for another set of statistics.

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004; 291: 1238-45).


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