You most likely can't even count this high.
Currently, there are around 10,000 patented prescription medications on the market. The simple math of the matter is that if there are 10,000 drugs out there, that means our doctors, government, and/or drug makers have to somehow know the outcomes of 100 MILLION (10,000 x 10,000) drug combinations -- and this is just for the folks taking only two different prescriptions...
Do you think all these possible combinations are a matter of record somewhere -- some giant database you can consult before you get a prescription? Does your doctor have the expertise to keep 100 million possible drug interactions straight in his head? (I know I couldn't.) Do you think Big Pharma and the FDA tested all of these combinations before releasing their drugs to the public?
According to a 2004 Health and Human Services report, 17% of us are taking three or MORE prescription medications. For the elderly, it's almost 50% who are popping a trio or more of different prescriptions every day, all of which could possibly interact with each other in deadly ways...
Just to give you some perspective. For those taking three drugs, a total of 1 trillion possible interactions would have to be known, studied, quantified, and deemed safe before the government, the medical establishment, or drug makers could certify their safety.
Here's what a trillion looks like: 1,000,000,000,000. Think anyone has checked into all of these possibilities?
For those taking four meds, that number looks like this: 100,000,000,000,000,000.
That's one hundred quadrillion possible interactions for anyone taking four prescription medications (a not uncommon number, mind you). Think anyone's got a handle on all these? I don't. And by the way - get used to the number quadrillion. When it comes to the plethora of drugs out there and the possible interactions between them, we need numbers bigger than we're used to. In fact, we'd better start thinking ahead: What comes after "quadrillion"? (Is it pentillion or squadrillion?)
And not to complicate matters, but this doesn't even include possible reactions with the more than 300,000 over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and other medicinal products available in the U.S. Add these into the mix, and the number of negative interactions possible defies the power of mathematics to illustrate.
Bottom line: No matter what Big Pharma or the FDA says about how many safety studies it has conducted, WE are the unwitting guinea pigs in a giant, ongoing drug interaction study that never ends...
Except for those of us who are killed by it.
Doing my duty -- by the numbers,
William Campbell Douglass II, MD
Interesting fact: The most startling fact about 2002 is that the combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion).