AT least 25 deaths a week are linked to the side effects of different medicines, figures reveal.
Last year 1,433 deaths were associated with severe reactions to drugs, while 23,247 suffered side effects or serious adverse reactions, leading to 12 hospital admissions a day.
Deaths associated with drugs have soared 20 per cent in the past year and this year’s total is the highest recorded so far. In 1997 there were 447 deaths.
However, experts say only 10 per cent of cases are reported because the system is voluntary.
Concerned scientists recently wrote to David Cameron and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley calling for testing procedures to be overhauled.
They say one of the key problems is too much reliance by the pharmaceuticals industry on the use of animals for testing.
Dr Bob Coleman, adviser to the Safer Medicines Trust, said: “Developments in technology and the availability of human tissue mean it is now easier to carry out drug tests in the lab without using animals.
“You can prove what you like in a mouse but it is not a human and there is complacency on this.”
The figures were gathered using the Government’s “yellow card” scheme where doctors and patients can report side effects to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Adverse drug reactions are believed to account for one in 16 admissions to hospital, costing the NHS £466million a year. The drug linked most often to patient deaths is the anti-psychotic clozapine, with 399 suspected fatal reactions last year.
The painkiller morphine and tranquilliser diazepam were linked to 25 and 17 deaths respectively while the blood-thinner warfarin was blamed for 17 patient deaths.
Capecitabine, used to treat breast and colon cancer patients, was eighth on the list, connected to 20 suspected fatal reactions. A spokesman for the MHPRA said: “All medicines have side ^ªeffects and no effective medicine is without risk.
“The fact that an adverse reaction has been reported does not necessarily mean that the medicine has been proven to cause the reaction.”
William Anderson, a father of two, died of a heart attack at 56, two years after he was prescribed the painkiller vioxx for his arthritic hip.
Given to hundreds of thousands of patients, vioxx was banned in October 2004 after studies linked it with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
His son, William, 40, is one of 250 relatives or patients taking legal action against the makers.
Chris Wilkinson died, aged 63, after he was put on a trial of a drug which caused his liver to fail. Mr Wilkinson, of Didcot, Oxfordshire, had been cleared of kidney cancer and was given the drug to prevent it returning.
His wife Susanna said: “This drug was not safe for my husband. You would think that by the time they are carrying out trials in humans the risks would be minimal.”