There are about 300 drugs on the market that carry a safety alert from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before you begin taking any medication, it is very important that you not only consult with your doctor but use every resource you have available to you to learn more about your prescription.
There are many examples of drugs being prescribed before the full extent of the risk is known. Among them:
Actos hit the market in 1999 amid great fanfare. The drug, which is part of the glitazone family, treats type 2 diabetes by helping the patient to absorb more insulin.
However, just a year after Actos was launched, its close relative — a drug called Rezulin — was recalled after patient deaths due to liver failure.
Actos has had some of the same problems — and some new ones. France and Germany banned the drug in 2011, but the FDA is dragging its feet on dealing with Actos. While the FDA awaits more results some patients have started filing an Actos lawsuit in some cases after incidents of bladder cancer resulted when taking the medication for longer than a year. A black box warning has been issued on the drug, which is the most serious warning it can require.
Diabetic patients may want to avoid this drug altogether and talk to their doctor about alternatives.
Millions of women take Prozac or a similar antidepressant, yet few realize the risks if they take the drugs while they are pregnant.
In 2006, the FDA acknowledged the link between the most common type of antidepressant — selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — and the higher risk of birth defects. This class of drugs includes Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa and Effexor.
When taken during the third trimester, Prozac has been linked to a number of complications for the baby, including:
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN)
- Respiratory distress
- Heart defects
- Abnormal brain and skull development (anencephaly)
- Blue/purple skin discoloration
- Unstable body temperature
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac, after women failed to receive adequate warning of the risks of the drug.
Chantix, one of the most popular drugs for smokers who are trying to quit, now carries a warning that existing heart problems could get worse with treatment.
Hundreds of patients have sued Pfizer, the maker of Chantix, after experiencing psychiatric problems after taking the drug.
The FDA approved the birth control pill Yaz in 2006. The pill was marketed as the solution to acne and irritability — the “pill that goes beyond the rest.”
In 2008, the FDA forced the drug’s manufacturer, Bayer, to air new commercials to set the record straight on what Yaz can and cannot treat.
Only years later did consumers learn the truth — that the pill can cause deadly blood clots and other serious Yaz side effects.
The FDA has added stronger warnings to Yaz packaging, but has refused to recall the dangerous drug. Women would do well to avoid it.
In early 2012, the FDA issued a warning about a counterfeit version of Avastin, which is a cancer drug.
Letters were sent out after the agency discovered that the active ingredient was missing.
It’s easy to buy into a drug that is featured in a flashy TV commercial, and FDA warnings can often be overlooked by consumers. Before you take any medication, it’s important to learn about all of the risks.
You can find a lot of information online, by typing the name of the drug into a search engine, along with phrases like “side effects” and “safety alert.”
Author bio: Barb Stephens is a writer for Drugwatch.com. She uses her knowledge about medications to help raise awareness about drug safety and to educate consumers and patients.