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Bayer and Death: Aspirin Deaths Continue Beyond 1918

Posted on July 11, 2011 by geobear7 | 14 Comments

By J. Holcombe, D. Jacobson, and T. Ruhl

A confluence of events created a perfect storm for widespread salicylate toxicity. The loss of Bayers patent
on aspirin in February 1917 allowed many manufacturers into the lucrative aspirin market. Official
recommendations for aspirin therapy at toxic doses were preceded by ignorance of the unusual nonlinear
kinetics of salicylate (unknown until the 1960s), which predispose to accumulation and toxicity; tins and
bottles that contained no warnings and few instructions; and fear of Spanish influenza, an illness that had
been spreading like wildfire. ~Dr. Karen Starko
Given the role that it played in the millions of 1918 deaths, a further look at aspirin is in order.

Bayer aspirin was one of the earliest of drugs from the pharmaceutical industry, dependent on the oil industry,
and has become the most commonly used and trusted drug. As such, it exemplifies the displacement of natural
treatments by synthetic drugs.

Is Bayer aspirin safe today?

During 1918, repeatedly, first hand medical accounts point to aspirin as the source of pneumonias. In
collecting these accounts, Julian Winston notes in 1998: In reading the accounts of the epidemic it seems that
most of the deaths were caused by a virulent pneumonia that was especially devastating to those who
depressed their system with analgesics the most common being aspirin.
Heres one of the accounts he reproduced:

I had a package handed to me containing 1,000 aspirin tablets, which was 994 too many. I think I gave about
a half dozen. I could find no place for it. My remedies were few. I almost invariably gave Gelsemium and
Bryonia. I hardly ever lost a case if I got there first, unless the patient had been sent to a drug store and bought
aspirin, in which event I was likely to have a case of pneumonia on my hands. -J. P. Huff, MD, Olive Branch,

Winston adds, The Physician from whom I first learned homeopathy, Raymond Seidel, MD, HMD, said that
he decided to be a homeopathic doctor during the flu epidemic when he was working as a delivery boy for a
homeopath in New Jersey. Raymond Seidel told me that he decided to become a homeopathic doctor when he
was a ten-year old delivery boy for a local homeopath. Seidel told him:

I saw that the people who were taking aspirin were dying, about half those who were drinking a lot were
dying, and those that received homeopathic remedies were living.

Aspirin was the first of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, the others not available until 1955 when Tylenol
was first marketed. They are the most commonly used drug on the market, sold over the counter and by
For Bayer and the pharmaceutical industry, they are the unquestioned basics of their industry.

Yet they all routinely kill.

Citing articles from various medical journals in his landmark report from 2002, Toxic and Deadly NSAIDs, an
Investigative Report, Roman Bystrianyk summarizes:
Over 100,000 people are hospitalized for GI bleeding and of those 16,500 die every year. And these values
are considered conservative.

Also the figures only include prescription NSAIDs used to treat only arthritis and only in the United States. If
prescription and over the counter NSAID-related hospitalizations and death rates were counted for not only
arthritis, but for all conditions, and throughout the world, the figures would no doubt be enormous. Taking
those figures and applying them over the many years that this class of drug that has been available since the
early 1970s and the numbers would be horrific. And yet, no study to date has attempted to quantify these

He then reposts a graph from The New England Journal of Medicine article by M. Wolfe, et al.,
Gastrointestinal Toxicity of Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, (June 17, 1999, Vol. 340, No. 24, pp.
1888-1889), which shows this alarming statistic relative to other causes of deaths:
U.S. Mortality Data for Seven Selected Disorders in 1997. A total of 16,500 patients with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis
died from the gastrointestinal toxic effects of NSAIDs. Data are from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Arthritis,
Rheumatism, and Aging Medical Information System.

Aspirin, the first of this class of drugs, has existed since the 1800s. How many people has it alone killed?

Another useful graph compares yearly estimated NSAID deaths since 1991 with the number of murders
committed with firearms each year in the United States and with the number of U.S. Forces killed in Vietnam
if that war was being fought in the 1990s instead of 1961-1972, Bystrianyk writes:
Comparison of NSAID related deaths with yearly murders with firearms and number of US forces killed in Vietnam. From James
F. Fries, NSAID Gastropathy: The Second Most Deadly Rheumatic Disease? Epidemiology and Risk Appraisal, Journal of
Rheumatology, 1991, (Supplement 28), Vol. 18, pp. 6-10; and Singh Gurkirpal, MD, The American Journal of Medicine, July 27,
1998, p. 31S.

The graph assumes a linear increase in the number of NSAID deaths; the actual numbers are unknown. But,
Bystrianyk repeats that the 16,500 NSAID deaths per year is considered conservative since it does not
include over the counter medications or prescriptions for conditions other than arthritis.

Bystrianyk adds:

Another important observation is that most people have no warning signs that these drugs are causing them
internal damage before ending up in the hospital with a serious medical condition. And as we have seen from
the statistics, approximately 10% of these hospitalizations end in death.

Even aspirin, the first NSAID that was synthesized over 100 years ago by Felix Hoffman at Bayer industries
is not free of risk. And considering that aspirin is being highly recommended to reduce the incidence of heart
disease we must consider the gastrointestinal damage being caused as well.

Bystrianyk then quotes J. Weil, et al., from their 2005 British Medical Journal article entitled, Prophylactic
aspirin and risk of peptic ulcer bleeding:

We found that no particular dose of aspirin between 75 mg and 300 mg daily currently used in
cardiovascular prophylaxis is free of risk of causing bleeding from gastric or duodenal ulcers. Even very
low (75 mg) doses of aspirin reportedly caused gastric bleeding in volunteers. Some 10,000 episodes of
ulcer bleeding occur in people aged 60 and over each year in England and Wales. It [sic] may be deduced
that 900 of the 10,000 episodes could be associated with and ascribed to prophylactic aspirin use. A
general change to low doses (75 mg) of aspirin would not eliminate the risk. [Emphasis added]
Making matters worse, Bystrianyk writes:

Unfortunately the risk of hospitalization and death is not the only possibility from taking these types of drugs.
Other studies also indicate that the risk of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) while using NSAIDs is also quite
substantial. One author suggested that the number of deaths could be similar to those that are being seen with
gastrointestinal bleeding. If so the numbers of deaths attributed to NSAIDs would increase dramatically from
the already large figure of 16,500.

His source is J. Page and D. Henry from their March 2000 article in the Archives of Internal Medicine,
Consumption of NSAIDs and the Development of Congestive Heart Failure in Elderly Patients:
In this study we found that recent use of NSAIDs by elderly patients doubles the odds of being admitted to
hospital with an episode of CHF [Congestive Heart Failure]. The estimated relative risk for first admission
with heart failure, and the risk of this outcome was increased substantially by NSAID use in those with a
history of heart disease. Assuming the association between use of NSAIDs and CHF is unconfounded, the
disease burden attributable to these drugs may be large approaching the levels of morbidity and mortality that
we have previously documented for serious upper gastrointestinal complications of NSAID use in NSW [New
South Wales].

The following statement Bystrianyk made about all NSAIDS (including Bayer aspirin) could as easily
characterize what happened during 1918, including the complete silence surrounding Bayers drug aspirin
(and the generic versions) that is now implicated in killing millions of people during 1918.

NSAIDs are truly a silent epidemic that have caused a tremendous amount of pain and death. Public
knowledge of this tragedy is virtually non-existent with an enormous amount of information written primarily
existing within the sanctuary of medical libraries. Pharmaceutical companies still market and promote
worldwide sales of these toxic substances and governmental agencies have done nothing of any substance to
alert the public.

Of course, research continues to expose the hazards of NSAIDS. One site that tracks current research is Pain- In May of this year, Stewart B. Leavitt, MA, PhD, wrote, Results of the new research suggest that
even short-term use of these pain relievers is unsafe for [heart attack] patients with pain. In that piece he also
mentions adverse effects on the liver, as well as the heart.
Given all the information presented so far in this series, a set of questions arises as to Bayers culpability and
influence over regulators. In the next and final installment, we pose those questions.
Cannabis less harmful than
aspirin, says scientist
By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent
Friday 20 October 2000


Cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long-term without serious
side effects, says a book by a leading Oxford scientist.

Cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long-term without serious
side effects, says a book by a leading Oxford scientist.

The Science of Marijuana, by Dr Leslie Iversen of Oxford University's

department of pharmacology, found many "myths" surrounding marijuana use,
such as extreme addictiveness, or links with mental illness or infertility are not
supported by science.
He also found cannabis is an inherently "safe drug" which does not lead to
cancer, infertility, brain damage or mental illness. Legalisation of the drug for
medical conditions should be considered, he says.

Dr Iversen's findings will increase pressure on the Government to reopen the

debate about the decriminalisation of marijuana.

The author, a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society, found cannabis was far
less toxic than other drugs and had "an impressive record" compared with
heroin, cocaine or tobacco and alcohol.
His study showed that the active element of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), which made users high, had a lot of potential as a safe drug to treat Aids
patients and people suffering severe pain.

He also found "stoned" drivers were less dangerous and able to co-ordinate than
people who were drunk. "By any standards, THC must be considered a very safe
drug both acutely and on long-term exposure," he writes. "The available animal
data are more than adequate to justify its approval as a human medicine, and
indeed it has been approved by the FDA [American drug authority] for certain
limited therapeutic indications."

The book says "alarming claims about the harmful effects of long-term exposure
to cannabis" should be "put to rest", and there "is no evidence the drug causes
any impairment in fertility or sexual function in men or women". He says
people who stop using cannabis do not suffer long-term side-effects.

"Cannabis does not cause structural damage to the brains of animals as some
reports had claimed, nor is there evidence of long-term damage to the human
brain or other than slight residual impairments in cognitive function after drug
use is stopped." The author says many adverse effects of cannabis are related to
smoking the drug.

But cannabis itself did not appear to cause cancer. Compared with alcohol and
cigarettes, which led to more than 100,000 deaths a year, cannabis had a far
better record.

"Tetrahydrocannabinol is a very safe drug," he said. "Despite the widespread

illicit use of cannabis here are very few if any instances of people dying from an
overdose. Even such apparently innocuous medicines as aspirin and related
steroidal anti-inflammatory compounds are not safe.
"Thousands of people die every year because of the tendency of these drugs to
cause catastrophic gastric bleeding."

Keith Hellawell, the drug tsar, also agrees cannabis use does not lead to heroin