While the FDA tries to rigorously test the safety and efficacy of drugs before they’re allowed on the market, sometimes dangerous drugs slip through the cracks. Nowadays, many pharmaceuticals are recalled at the first sign of serious side effects. This is partially because many drugs in the past have done serious damage and have cost Big Pharma millions in court settlements.
Here are five of the worst pharmaceutical recalls of dangerous drugs that big pharmaceutical companies hope people have forgotten about.
5. Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
Between the 1940s and 1970s, Diethylstilbestrol was regularly prescribed to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages. However, in the early ’70s, DES was found to cause clear cell carcinoma, a rare kind of cervical tumor, in girls who had been exposed to DES while in the womb. DES was linked to birth defects in boys as well. Furthermore, DES was shown to increase the risk of breast cancer in women, and is now classified as a carcinogen.
4. Troglitazone (Rezulin)
The anti-inflammatory diabetes drug, Rezulin, was found to cause severe liver problems. It has been positively linked to more than 60 deaths due to liver failure. Rezulin was also linked to several patients who contracted hepatitis.
The FDA also came under fire over Rezulin. The LA Times reported that the agency reportedly delayed the recall of Rezulin because of a request from Pfizer.
Pfizer was forced to pay nearly $1 billion as a result of class-action lawsuits over Rezulin.
3. Cerivastatin (Baycol)
Baycol, a prescription drug designed to treat high cholesterol, was directly linked to 31 deaths before the FDA pulled it from the market in the early 2000’s. The deaths were caused by an unusual breakdown of muscle tissue linked to the drug.
Since then, Baycol has reportedly been responsible for over 40,000 deaths. Countless people have filed suit against Bayer after they found that Baycol caused them to contract rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder that clogs the kidneys.
2. Fenfluramine/Phentermine (Fen-Phen)
Fen-Phen, a combination of two popular diet drugs, was conceived in 1988. It’s estimated that 18 million prescriptions for Fen-Phen had been filled by 1996, in an effort to combat the rising obesity problem in America.
However, in the ensuing months and years, doctors began to see an unusual rise in heart disease and lung damage linked to Phentermine based diet pills. After doctors were able to confirm that Fen-Phen was directly causing these heart and lung problems, the FDA pulled it from the market in 1997.
Over 50,000 people joined a class-action lawsuit against Wyeth, Fen-Phen’s manufacturer. It’s difficult to estimate the number of people who were negatively affected by Fen-Phen, because many people were either improperly diagnosed, or haven’t yet seen the effects of Fen-Phen.
1. Rofecoxib (Vioxx)
Vioxx was prescribed to almost 20 million people to alleviate arthritis pain. Doctors later found that it was connected to heart disease and lung damage. The Vioxx recall was the largest in history. Vioxx’s manufacturer, Merck, has paid out billions in settlements over the years.
A conservative estimate from NBC linked Vioxx to nearly 30,000 deaths. Some people believe the number is as high as 100,000, and that that number may continue to grow as Vioxx patients get older.
Learn more about Dangerous Drugs and other defective drugs in circulation.