If thyroid medication prescriptions increase in the USA due to the nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima Japan would anyone know it?
Thyroid medication is the most prescribed drug, no, stop, wait, 4th most, oops wrong 2nd most, oh I found it now 3rd most no that’s not right.
What is the current number of thyroid medication prescriptions and why does it matter?
Discussing the problem of radiation related to the nuclear industry with a nurse friend of mine she said, “No wonder thyroid medication is the most prescribed medication.” Well that was something I never heard before. My guess would have been some sort of blood pressure medicine. I had to check into it…
A number of articles and sources from Forbes1 to Livestrong2 to WebMD3 reference data from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics from different years, some of them from the 2010 data reported in 20114. I looked at that report and also at a more recent report on 2011 data reported in 20125. The reports show that thyroid medication prescriptions rank as near the top of types of medications prescribed, generally confirming what my friend had said. I found something even more interesting that can give insight into data reporting especially as it relates to increases in thyroid prescriptions. Those of us concerned about low level radiation accumulating in the food supply from years of atomic testing in the 1950’s-1960’s, Chernobyl, regular releases of radiation from nuclear plants and now Fukushima have been holding our breath waiting for a tipping point of
health problems to rear its ugly head. Maybe we have already crossed
that tipping point.
According to the IMS report on 2010 data Levothyroxine sodium, a thyroid medication, was prescribed 70.5 million times in 2010 and ranks as the 4th most prescribed medication. Preceded by blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the number one prescription, drum roll please, pain killers! Are we really in that much pain or are a lot of people addicted? That is a subject for a different post. 70.5 million is a lot of thyroid prescriptions and the chart’s data for the years spanning 2006-2010 shows a steady increase every year. Japan’s nuclear disaster at Fukushima began in March of 2011 so what about thyroid prescriptions in 2011? The report for the 2011 data shows thyroid medication was prescribed 104.7 million times in 2011. Just like the year before the report shows data for a span of years from 2007-2011. If you print the reports out to compare note they reversed the order that the years are reported which makes it difficult to compare charts. I put the data into an Excel spreadsheet to be able to make a better comparison.
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
2010 Data 54.6 mil 61.2 mil 66.0 mil 70.5 mil ——-
2011 Data 97.4 mil 98.9 mil 100.2 mil 103.2 mil 104.7 mil
70.5 million prescriptions in 2010 then 104.7 million in 2011 but wait a minute the report with the 2011 data doesn’t show 70.5 million for the year 2010 it shows 103.2 million for the year 2010. Also, it shows the drug has been bumped up to the 2nd most prescribed drug. Why is the data for the year 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 not the same in both reports? The report that came out with the 2011 data should just have all the same data the last report had plus the data for 2011. The data from 2010 shouldn’t change by 34.2 million unless they changed the way they collect the data and went back and recalculated all the data for the four years spanning 2007-2010 causing them to report new numbers for those years. A few of the other drugs did have slight alterations to some of their numbers but none were as large as the changes to Levothyroxine sodium. You would think some sort of clarification would be in order by those making the report.
Looking at only the chart from the 2011 data shows an increase from 103.2 million in 2010 to 104.7 million in 2011, a 1% increase in Thyroid prescriptions. Maybe a more accurate comparison is to be done by comparing the originally reported data for 2010 of 70.5 million in 2010 then comparing it to 104.7 million reported for 2011 in the 2011 data set which would then show a 48% increase in Thyroid prescriptions from 2010 to 2011. That is a big difference.
Which numbers would the press report a 1% increase or a 48% increase for the years 2010 to 2011? It depends, if they only look at the most recent data and you would think the most accurate reporting would come from the most recent data, they would report only a 1% increase. If the press doesn’t look at the 2010 report or doesn’t look at it carefully they wouldn’t see the changes in numbers and may not even know to ask why the data sets for the years 2007-2010 are so different in the two reports.
In the future if you hear reports that there has not been a significant increase in thyroid issues you have to ask yourself what data is such a statement based on? Is it based upon the amount of prescriptions reported in a report such as this? What will future comparisons be compared to? If in the year 2014 the prescription amount for thyroid medication is 120 million will it be said
that compared to the year before the Fukushima disaster it is only a
16% increase because data from the 2011 report is used or will the increase be reported as 70% by using the original data from the 2010 report? These two hypothetical percentage increases for 2014 are dramatically different. Based on a history of previous denials by various government agencies and the nuclear industry of the harm caused by low level radiation I bet we would see the 16% figure and I also bet it would be said that such an increase over those years is “normal”.
- Forbes Article: http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/10/narcotic-painkiller-vicodin-business-healthcare-popular-drugs_slide_5.html
- Livestrong Article: http://www.livestrong.com/article/91321-ten-dangerous-prescription-drugs/
- WebMD Article: http://www.webmd.com/news/20110420/the-10-most-prescribed-drugs
- The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2010, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, Published April 2011. Page 33, title Top Products by Prescription.
Note: The study of 2010 data was published in 2011.
- The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2011, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, Published April 2012. Page 38, title Top Medicines by Prescription.
Note: The study of 2011 data was published in 2012.