About 10 per cent of all hospital admissions in the US are due to adverse reactions to drugs. Reactions to devices and food supplements also account for a minority of cases.
In all, 4265 cases of adverse reaction have been reported to the US government drugs monitoring service MEDWatch in the first six months since its launch in June 1993.
Of these, 55 per cent were prescribed by pharmacists, 16 per cent by physicians, and 19 per cent by other health care professionals and nurses.
So concerned is the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it is stepping up efforts to set up a national surveillance network.
MEDWatch was created by the FDA to monitor drug side effects. However, it relies on health care workers to report any adverse reactions, and does not make it a condition of law. Drug manufacturers are legally required to report reactions. Until the creation of MEDWatch, the FDA reckoned only one in 10 adverse reactions was being reported.