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New Book: The Risks of Prescription Drugs

How did prescribed drugs become a leading cause of death?

New book: The Risks of Prescription Drugs (only US$15)

A new report and book from Columbia University Press explains why an estimated 46 million Americans suffer from the side effects of prescription drugs, and 2.2 million are hospitalized. This epidemic makes prescription drugs a leading cause of death. Yet it is neglected by teachers and leaders of medicine, nursing, epidemiology, health & society, and public health.


Edited and co-authored by Donald Light, The Risks of Prescription Drugs describes how most drugs approved by regulators provide few if any advantages over existing drugs to offset their risks of side effects. Women, vulnerable elders, and people with disabilities are most affected. The book identifies the Risk Proliferation Syndrome, a set of institutional practices that maximizes the number of people exposed to drugs of little benefit but substantial risks.

Most side effects are mild but can impair judgment, mood, or coordination. Falls, accidents, and other kinds of injury may result. About 1 in 5 new drugs causes enough harm to receive a warning or be withdrawn in the first decade of use.

Health policy experts Howard Brody, Peter Conrad, Allan Horwitz, Donald Light, and Cheryl Stults describe the proliferation of new “diseases” and health conditions that greatly increase the number of people expose to adverse side effects.  A concluding chapter on health policy recommends how rules and incentives can be changed to make drugs safer. 
Paper $15.00 167 pages ISBN:  9780-231-14693-7     Hardcover $36.00  
Available at:
FOR STUDENTS   Use The Risks of Prescription Drugs as a short supplement to courses in public health, epidemiology, health and aging, gender, disability, medical sociology, and minority studies. For an examination copy for course adoptions, go to To request a review copy, write to: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The Risks of Prescription Drugs is part of a series from the Social Science Research Council on how Americans bear life risks they are unable to cope with. The series was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.



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