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August 9, 1976

Adverse Drug Reactions and Associated Deaths

JAMA. 1976;236(6):592. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270060042028

Two articles that deal with adverse drug reactions (ADR), one by Nelson S. Irey in this issue of The Journal (p 575) and one in the Archives of Internal Medicine,1 merit special attention because they present data that contradict conclusions arrived at by a Senate subcommittee in 1974—conclusions that received wide attention in the public press.

The problem of ADR is well known to most physicians and is the subject of many published papers that include case reports, statistical studies, reviews, editorials, and philosophical dissertations. In spite of this large extant literature, it is important to add information from carefully performed studies such as the two referred to here.

The paper by Irey from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Registry of Tissue Reactions to Drugs, classifies 827 autopsied cases of adverse drug reactions and finds that only 25 or 3.0% were due to therapeutic errors and should therefore