ALBANY, N.Y. - Poisoning, primarily by drugs, kills more people than car accidents, making it the nation's biggest injury-related cause of death, said a report by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Nationwide, 13.3 people per 100,000 died from poisoning between 2007 and 2009, compared with 12.4 from motor-vehicle accidents during the same period, the report found.
More than 90 percent of unintentional poisoning deaths in 2007 were caused by drugs and medicine, the report said. Each year, injuries create $406 billion in lifetime costs for medical care and lost productivity, according to the report.
Researchers identified a new set of injury threats, including concussions in school sports, bullying, auto accidents while texting, falls by aging baby boomers and a "dramatic, fast rise in prescription drug abuse." Sales of prescription painkillers and related deaths have tripled since 1999, according to the report.
"Motor-vehicle accidents are more dramatic and get more coverage, but poisoning happens every day," said Jeff Levi, who heads the Washington-based trust. "As we've seen poisoning from prescription drugs reach epidemic levels, it's time to raise it on the radar screen."
From Washington to Maine, states have passed or are considering laws designed to better regulate prescription drugs. Deaths from prescribed pain relievers have exceeded the number caused by cocaine and heroin combined, the report said. Forty-eight states have implemented, or have pending, programs meant to track prescriptions to keep buyers from visiting multiple doctors to get the same drug.
"To have good pain control is essential, and anything that would hamper access to any medication would be a problem," said Sharon Brigner, deputy vice president for state advocacy for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a Washington-based trade group. "These are not illicit drugs. These are drugs prescribed to patients for legitimate reasons."