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June 6, 1977

Drug-Related Deaths

JAMA. 1977;237(23):2470-2471. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270500022010

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To the Editor.—  We have received numerous inquiries concerning our articles on drug-related deaths (216:467, 1971; 237:879, 1977) and wish to provide some additional data that put the results of both papers in perspective.The proportion of patients with cancer or alcoholic liver disease was 35% in our original series of approximately 6,200 patients, as compared to only 18% in the latest series of approximately 26,500. Since a majority of the deaths attributed to drugs occurred in patients with these two illnesses, the difference in rates between the series is due, at least in part, to this important difference in the types of illness represented.The overall death rate in the first series was also substantially higher (13%) than it was in our recent series (5%). The percentages of deaths attributed to drugs among those who died from any cause were similar in the two series, being about 3% and