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How Deaths Were Calculated
Reports of adverse drug reactions to the Food and Drug Administration are considered by public health officials to be the most reliable early warnings of a product's danger. The reports are filed to the FDA by health professionals, consumers and drug manufacturers. The Los Angeles Times inspected all reports filed in connection with seven drugs that were approved and withdrawn since 1993. By hand and by computer, The Times counted 1,002 deaths in which the filer identified the drug as the leading suspect. Since fall 1997, this top category has been termed "primary suspect." The Times did not count any death in which the drug was identified as the "secondary suspect" or less. The methodology and results were reviewed by Sheila R. Weiss, a former FDA epidemiologist who is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland's department of pharmacy practice and sciences.