Originally published November 5 2014
Medications are the number one cause of allergy-related death in America
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Pharmaceutical drugs are the top cause of sudden, allergy-related death in the United States, according to a study conducted by researchers from Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology on September 30.
The researchers reviewed mortality records in which the cause of death was listed as anaphylaxis, which refers to a severe reaction occurring within moments of exposure to an allergen. They note that, unlike other countries including the United Kingdom, the United States does not maintain a national registry of anaphylaxis deaths.
"Anaphylaxis-related deaths in the U.S. have not been well understood in recent years," lead author Elina Jerschow, MD, MSc, said. "We hope these findings will help in identifying specific risk factors and allow physicians to formulate preventative approaches."
Drugs cause 60 percent of deathsThe researchers analyzed the U.S. National Mortality Database for death certificates between 1999 and 2010 that listed anaphylaxis as the cause of death. They found that 58.8 percent of these certificates noted a medication as the cause of the reaction, 15.2 percent listed animal venom (as from an insect sting), 6.7 percent listed food, and 19.3 percent did not clarify the cause of the anaphylaxis.
This means that medications were overwhelmingly the major cause of anaphylaxis-related death, responsible for at least 58.8 percent of deaths and perhaps up to 19 percent more.
In 74 percent of medication-related deaths, the drugs responsible were not listed. Among cases where the drugs were mentioned, however, almost half were antibiotics. Radiocontrast agents (used in diagnostic imaging) and chemotherapy drugs came in second and third, respectively. These were followed by blood serum, opiates, blood pressure drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and anesthetics.
The researchers found that fatal venom-related anaphylaxis was most common in older white men, whereas fatal anaphylaxis from other causes was most common in African Americans and older adults in general.
The rate of fatal drug anaphylaxis increased significantly during the study period, from 0.27 per million in 1999-2001 to 0.51 per million in 2008-2010. The researchers attributed this increase in part to increased use of drugs and radiocontrast diagnostics, as well as to changes in drug coding.
"Anaphylaxis has been dubbed 'the latest allergy epidemic,'" Dr. Jerschow said. "The U.S. and Australia have some of the highest rates of severe anaphylaxis among developed countries. We hope these results bring increased awareness of the need for a better understanding of anaphylaxis deaths."
Scale of problem unknownLittle data exists on how common drug allergies are, although it is known that about 7 percent of people show some allergic reactivity to penicillin. Anaphylaxis occurs in 32 out of every 100,000 patients exposed to penicillin.
Researchers believe that between 6 and 10 percent of all adverse drug reactions are caused by allergies. Yet in a 2006 study from the University of Porto, Portugal, doctor-confirmed drug allergies were found to be responsible for an astonishing 36.7 percent of adverse drug reactions. The same study found that 11.2 percent of participants had a doctor-confirmed drug allergy.
Severe drug allergies can be incredibly dangerous. The September issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology published a case study of a 10-year-old girl who suffered anaphylaxis after eating blueberry pie, even though she was not allergic to any of the ingredients. Researchers later found that the blueberries were contaminated with the antibiotic streptomycin, which is used in agriculture to protect crops from bacteria.
"As far as we know, this is the first report that links an allergic reaction to fruits treated with antibiotic pesticides," lead author Anne Des Roches, MD, FRCP, said. "Certain European countries ban the use of antibiotics for growing foods, but the United States and Canada still allow them for agricultural purposes."
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