Pharmaceutical companies are intentionally misinforming doctors about the effectiveness of drugs, and this is causing death or serious adverse effects. Currently in the UK, one in three elderly patients admitted to hospital are there due to an adverse drug reaction.

According to Dr Aseem Malhotra, an NHS cardiologist and a trustee of the King’s Fund health think tank, there is “a systemic lack of transparency in the information being given to doctors to prescribe medication, in terms of the benefits of drugs being grossly exaggerated and their side effects under reported in studies”.

It’s important to remember that drug companies are profit making businesses. They fund most of the studies conducted on their drugs, so they skew the results in their favor. According to Dr Malhotra, this is “creating an epidemic of misinformed doctors,” and creating a situation of “corporate interest trumping patient interest”.

An FDA report has found that in 2014, adverse events from prescribed medications caused 123,000 deaths in the USA and 800,000 serious patient outcomes. These included hospitalization or potential disability. The frightening fact is, the FDA report also showed that the number of adverse events from prescribed medications have tripled in the last 10 years in the USA.

Elderly people are most at risk because they are usually taking several medications, which may interact adversely with each other, and a low state of health can mean the drugs are metabolized and excreted poorly. Taking several medications can make elderly people feel tired and dizzy, which can lead to falls, hip fractures, infections and, sometimes, death.

There are many instances where prescription drugs are necessary and lifesaving. However, frequently a diet or lifestyle change, or a nutritional supplement can be a much safer and even more effective alternative. Ideally prescription drugs would be a last resort after safer alternatives have been trialled.