Prescription drugs have done wonders for the field of medicine. They’ve healed suffering patients and relieved chronic pain, in addition to causing serious health risks and side effects that inevitably caused them to be pulled from the market. Many of the so-called “miracle drugs” of our lifetime proved to be more dangerous than the original condition itself. Here are 10 prescription drugs pulled from the shelves and why:
In 1999, Vioxx was the most heavily marketed pharmaceutical in the world. A potent arthritis pain killer, Vioxx, promised to improve the lives of millions of aging baby boomers suffering from the terrible pain of arthritis and an aggressive marketing campaign made Vioxx an overnight sensation. However, this success soon turned into a nightmare for manufacturer Merck when reports of increased risk of heart attack and stroke began to pour in. The drug was retired in 2004, and has since been linked to over 27,000 deaths.
Thalidomide was a popular morning sickness medication prescribed worldwide under several different brand names throughout the 1960s and 1950s. The FDA, however, refused to approve the drug due to possible safety concerns. The drug was soon linked to catastrophic birth defects around the world. This regulatory success by the FDA was instrumental in shaping the drug approval process in the United States. The rest of the world, including 13 highly developed nations, was not so lucky.
From its inception, Rezulin, intended to treat diabetes, was clouded by controversy. A leading FDA physician, Dr. John Gueriguian, cautioned that Rezulin could be dangerous and urged the FDA not to approve the drug. The FDA responded to his warnings by firing him and discarding his report. Soon after its approval, Rezulin was linked to sudden liver failure and over 390 deaths.
The FDA had a plan for Duract, a pain killer that had already been shown to have potentially fatal side effects if taken longer than prescribed. The plan was simple: add a warning label that urged patients to take Duract only as prescribed. The problem was that patients did not follow this warning. After 68 deaths were linked to Duract it was pulled from the shelves.
In the 1980s, Redux, commonly known as “Fen-Phen,” was a revolutionary diet treatment that helped users drop pounds and keep them off. The drug would later be linked to over 100 deaths due to heart valve disease brought on by continued use. The drug was removed by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in 1997, but not before extensive litigation cost the company billions of dollars in settlements and damages.
This treatment for irritable bowel syndrome was perhaps best known for its strange marketing campaign showing women with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome written on their stomachs. The drug was widely prescribed and eventually approved for men before it was linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke and pulled from the shelves.
In 1985, Seldane was introduced as the first non-drowsy antihistamine. However, not long after its initial release, Seldane was shown to be highly cross reactive with other prescription drugs, over the counter medications and even foods such as grapefruit juice. Seldane was retired as other less reactive drugs entered the market, but the problems associated with its cross reactivity led the FDA to mandate extensive initial testing of chemical interactions before a drug could win approval.
Propulsid was a successful heartburn medication used in the treatment of severe gastric reflux. In 2000, however, it was linked to severe heart rhythm abnormalities and over 80 deaths. It was pulled from the market shortly thereafter.
Posicor’s approval as a treatment for cardiovascular disorders came with a list of three other medications that could cause deadly drug interactions if taken simultaneously. Needless to say, this list grew immediately, and Posicor’s benefits were soon outweighed by its list of over 25 potentially fatal drug interactions. It was replaced by safer alternatives and voluntarily removed from the market in 1998.
Reglan is widely prescribed acid reflux treatment that only recently has been linked to a terrible disorder called tardive dyskenisia, which can lead to uncontrolled movement and permanent disfigurement. The FDA has applied its “black box” warning to Reglan, and numerous lawsuits have been filed in connection with Reglan’s devastating side effects.