Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ban This Dangerous Killer Drug?

If you had the power, would you ban this drug?
2% to 3% of people are allergic to it and may have some or all of the following symptoms after taking it:
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Wheezing
  • Swollen lips, tongue or face (angioedema)
Adverse reactions also include Anaphylaxis which includes some or all of the following symptoms:
  • Constriction of the airways, including wheezing and a swollen tongue or throat, that results in difficulty breathing
  • Shock associated with a marked decrease in blood pressure
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Hives and itching
  • Flushed or pale skin
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
300 to 500 Americans* (maybe thousands world-wide) are killed as a direct result of its use every year because their airway swells shut and they suffocate.

One out of about every 13,600 people allergic to this drug will die if they use it. That's a 0.0074% ratio of deaths to prevalence.
As you can see, this is a very dangerous drug. It kills hundreds of people in the United States every year. In fact, it's the number one allergy related killer in the United States, more than food allergies and bee stings.

Given today climate of lawsuit craziness, can you imagine a company that would market such a dangerous and lethal drug?

Have you guessed which drug this is yet? Heroin? Wrong. Cocaine? Wrong. Viagra? Wrong. Lipitor? Wrong.

It's Penicillin. Yes, that's right. It was discovered by the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming in 1928. It's derived from a fungi. Click the link to learn more about it. Until mass production of it was figured out in 1944, if you got an infection like strep throat, gonorrhea or an infected wound of some kind, you pretty much died (or they chopped off the offending body part and you probably died later as a result).

Fleming discovered it but you can thank a bunch of very smart chemical engineers, doctors and scientists working for BIG PHARMA for its mass production. And don't forget to thank the US military for demanding it and funding it's production and distribution. Oh the irony...

My laziness has prevented me from finding a solid figure on how many lives have been saved by penicillin and its derivatives but I suspect that more than a billion people saved may be a plausible guestimate.

Now...can you imagine a world without this drug?

* most references I checked said about 400 are killed in the US every year but some said 300 and 500.

Mayo Clinic




Thanks to goodcatmum's flickr photos for the creative commons permission to use the above photo.

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