In a recent clinical trial involving 183 pregnant women in the Netherlands, the drug sildenafil (also sold under the trade name-Viagra) was tested to increase blood flow to the placenta and improve growth of unborn babies. This was supposed to be a groundbreaking trial to help the babies who were not growing properly in the womb. The theory behind this clinical trial was that Viagra would help dilate the placental blood vessels, increase the size of the placenta, and thus increase the blood supply to the fetus and its development.
The drugs intended to reduce blood pressure, correct arrhythmias and some forms of heart disease are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the US. One in every three adults, or approximately 75 million people, is diagnosed with high blood pressure in the US and many more have pre-hypertension. About 15 million people have some form of irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias. The most commonly prescribed drugs to treat these and other conditions are the so called “channel-blockers” or “agonists” which include calcium, sodium and potassium channel blockers. Worldwide sales of these drugs have reached $6 billion. In the United States, calcium channel blockers are the eighth largest drug class in prescription sales.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol® or Paracetamol) is the most commonly used painkiller and fever reducing medicine and is easily available over-the-counter. Many people use this drug as if it were candy, without being aware of its likelihood for causing serious, sometimes deadly, consequences when taken in excess. Moreover, acetaminophen is present in small doses in nearly 600 other over-the-counter products in small doses, such as cough and cold drugs, sleep medicines, and in prescription painkillers. Easy access and an abundant presence makes acetaminophen the most common culprit for accidental and potentially life-threatening overdose. Although Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen (Motrin®) and aspirin, it has a very narrow safety margin and even a small dosage error can cause serious damage to the liver. Accidental acetaminophen poisoning is the cause of 78,000 emergency room visits per year and is the most common cause of liver failure requiring liver transplants in the United States.
With over 65% of Americans taking one or more pharmaceutical medicines on a regular basis, it is imperative to be aware of not only the damaging health side effects but the associated costs as well. According to a 2008 estimate, Americans are spending more than $205 billion on prescription drugs alone. Contrary to popular belief, the elderly are not the only age group being overly medicated. Drugs for children are one of the pharmaceutical industry’s fastest growing businesses.