Drug complaints filed with the US Food and Drug Administration reached a record high in 2004 – up 14% from the previous year to 422,500, according to Industry reports.

However, USA Today claims that the real number could actually be significantly higher than this, as, although the bulk of the adverse reports come from drug manufacturers, doctors, nurses and patients can also file reports – but these are only voluntary.

The FDA defended the rise, saying that it came as a result of an increase in the use of prescription drugs, and was not down to the climate of uncertainty surrounding drug safety. This issue came to the fore last year as a result of Merck & Co’s decision to withdraw its painkiller, Vioxx (rofecoxib) [[01/10/04a]].

The article offers a further explanation from Sidney Wolfe, director of the health research group at influential US consumer group, Public Citizen. “There’s much more public awareness of the potential for drugs to cause adverse reactions… The whole concept of drug-induced disease is much better known than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” he is quoted as saying.