Every year we read headlines about a celebrity who died from a prescription drug overdose or drug interaction. We hear their stories, mourn their loss and discuss the dangers of mixing pharmaceuticals, drinking alcohol while taking prescription drugs, or taking too many painkillers.
But what if your doctor prescribed a medication for you that was intended to alleviate your diabetes, but instead gave you bladder cancer? What if the acne medication you took years ago as a teenager is the reason you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome now? What if you were taking an SSRI antidepressant, discovered you were pregnant, and nine months later your baby was born with a congenital heart defect?
These are the stories we hear about every day at our law office, but they generally don’t make the headline news. They are all true stories about dangerous prescription drugs that had undisclosed and harmful side effects. If you or a loved one has one of these stories, contact us today for your free and confidential case consultation, or call toll free at (866) 527-4278.
Dangerous Prescription Drugs
Most Americans believe that the prescribed pharmaceutical drugs and the over the counter medications they buy are safe. We believe that the pharmaceutical industry has rigorous testing requirements that ensure only very small percentages of people, if any, may be harmed, and that if there is a harmful side effect, it is only because the benefit of the drug outweighs any risk involved in taking it.
Unfortunately, for many pharmaceutical drugs, that is a myth. Here are several reasons why:
- Pharmaceutical companies have found ways around testing requirements to get their drugs and medical devices approved with little or no testing (Read a Consumer Reports Investigation here).
- Recently, they’ve begun outsourcing clinical trials to drug testing companies in other countries, such as Russia, India, China and other places where oversight may be less stringent.
- It is estimated that approximately 2,000 presciption drugs currently on the market were never approved by the FDA, yet they are still being prescribed and sold to unknowing patients.
According to the L.A. Times’ review of data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the first time in the United States, more people are killed annually by prescription drugs than by traffic accidents. Although the Times article focuses on liberal prescribing of painkillers, which often leads to painkiller overdoses, pharmaceutical drugs have shown to be increasingly dangerous for a variety of other reasons, as well.
Reasons for Pharmaceutical Drug Injuries
There are many reasons why people become injured by pharmaceutical drugs. In some cases, the drug maker may have produced a defective drug or a drug that was tainted with a toxic substance. Some drugs were insufficiently tested by the manufacturer and harmful side effects weren’t revealed until after the drug hit the market, or it was discovered that they can increase the risk of another type of injury (like a heart attack, liver damage, or bladder cancer). In other situations, a drug that was approved by the FDA for one purpose is marketed for other purposes that were not approved, and this misuse creates additional unexpected health problems.
Some of the causes of pharmaceutical injuries:
- Defective pharmaceutical drugs
- Undisclosed harmful side effects
- Unapproved or off-label use of pharmaceutical drug
- Prescription drug errors / medication errors
- Bad combination of prescription drugs (drug interactions)
- Prescription drug overdose
- Abuse of painkillers
- Abuse of sleeping pills
- Combining prescription drugs with alcohol or other recreational drugs
- Use of SSRI antidepressant drugs while pregnant (SSRI birth defects)
- Use of other prescription drugs while pregnant or nursing that could harm the fetus or nursing infant
Prescription Drug Lawsuits
Below is a list of some recent cases involving pharmaceutical drug that have notably dangerous side effects:
- Actos: On June 17, 2011, the FDA issued a new warning regarding Actos, which is commonly prescribed for Diabetes, revealing a 40% increased risk for bladder cancer among patients who took the drug for more than a year. France and Germany banned Actos after this study was published, but it is still prescribed in the U.S.
- Accutane: The makers of Accutane pulled the acne drug off the market in June of 2009 after paying out over $33 million in damages to Accutane users who developed bowel diseases. Accutane has been linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, as well as severe birth defects when taken by pregnant women, depression, suicidal tendencies, and several other life threatening side effects.
- Celexa: Celexa is an antidepressant drug in the class of SSRI, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. Celexa has been linked to Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH) and congenital heart defects in newborns of mothers who took the drug in the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Cymbalta: Cymbalta is an antidepressent in the SSNRI class, or Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor. Cymbalta is used to treat major depressive disorder and pain caused by nerve damage associated with diabetes. It has been linked to serious birth defects, including PPHN and congenital heart defects, in newborn babies whose mothers took Cymbalta after the 20th week of pregnancy.
- Effexor: Effexor is another antidepressant in the class of SNRI, or Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor. Effextor is often prescribed to treat major depression, obsessive compulsive behavior (OCD), panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and anxiety disorders. Many studies have been publicized that Effexor and other SSRI and SNRI antidepressants are not as effective as they claim to be, while causing severe side effects, including septal heart defects in newborns of pregnant women who consumed Effexor in the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Onglyza: Following a study linking Onglyza with an increased risk of heart failure, the FDA launched an investigation finding that not only was there an increased risk for hospitalization due to heart failure, but there was an increase in the rate of death from all causes.The FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee recommended with a 14-1 vote that Onglyza should be re-labeled to warn patients of a higher than expected risk of hospitalization for heart failure and all causes of death.
- Paxil: Another member of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI antidepressants), Paxil has been shown to increase the risk of septal heart birth defects for babies born to women who took Paxil in their first trimester of pregnancy. Babies may be born with holes in the walls of the chambers of their heart (atrial and ventricular septal defects) at twice the rate of babies born to mothers who did not take Paxil. Paxil has also been linked to suicidal behavior, especially in children under the age of 18 who take Paxil. Allegedly, Paxil’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, knew these facts and hid or misrepresented the data pertaining to Paxil’s harmful side effects.
- Prozac: Also in the SSRI class of antidepressants, Prozac has been linked to serious birth defects when used by pregnant mothers. Prozac has been linked to birth defects including Persistant Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN), heart defects, abnormal brain and skull development, as well as suicidal behavior and complications for users with pre-existing heart conditions.
- Welbutrin: Welbutrin is approved to treat patients with major depressive disorder. Welbutrin has also been linked to congenital heart defects, specifically left outflow tract defect, in babies whose mothers used Welbutrin in the first trimester of pregnancy. Babies born with left outflow tract defect may have a restricted blood flow from the left chambers of the heart and require surgery to correct the defect.
- Zofran: Zofran is an anti-nausea drug that has been linked to birth defects, including heart injuries, kidney injuries, and cleft palate. The drug was approved in 1991 by the FDA strictly for the treatment of nausea and vomiting for chemotherapy, anesthesia and surgery patients, however in recent years it has been promoted off-label for pregnant mothers battling morning sickness. While Zofran has shown effective in calming nausea and vomiting, it has also shown to be quite dangerous to the developing fetus, with the potential to cause birth defects that include growth restriction, cleft lip, cleft palate, congenital heart defects, ventricular septal defects (also known as “hole in the heart”), atrial septal defects, and kidney malformation.
- Zoloft: Zoloft is an SSRI antidepressant used to treat depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Studies link Zoloft to an increased risk of congenital heart defects and PPHN in newborns whose mothers used Zoloft in early pregnancy.
What to do if you were injured due to a prescription drug
If you were prescribed a drug that resulted in an undisclosed harmful side effect, it’s important to discuss your situation with a product liability attorney immediately to protect your legal rights. Every state has a different time limit dictating when you can file a lawsuit for your pharmaceutical injury. Although it may be helpful to hire a lawyer in your state, for product liability cases this is not necessary. The important thing is to speak with an attorney who handles lawsuits involving dangerous drugs, as they would be more aware if there are other cases involving the drug you are taking.
Our product liability lawyers represent patients who have been injured by prescription drugs and defective medical devices. We would be happy to answer your questions, free of charge an obligation. Call us toll free at (866) 527-4278 or fill out the form on this page to speak with one of our pharmaceutical injury lawyers today.