January 3, 2011
In my book The Rise of Tyranny I explain that FDA has become a captive of the drug industry and that repeatedly its Commissioner approves drugs over the safety objections of FDA medical reviewers. Dr. David Graham, FDA’s Associate Director of the Office of Drug Safety, has severely criticized his own agency for repeatedly approving unsafe drugs. “FDA is inherently biased in favor of the pharmaceutical industry,” said Dr. Graham. “It views industry as its client whose interests it must represent and advance. It views its primary mission as approving as many drugs as it can, regardless of whether the drugs are safe or needed.”
Indeed, FDA performs no drug safety testing but relies entirely on the drug sponsor’s own testing. If the drug sponsor, who has an obvious economic interest in either not revealing or downplaying risks, fails to bring all identified risks to the agency’s attention, the agency presumes those risks de minimis or non-existent.
Perhaps as many as 15% to 20% of all drugs on the market today are ones that carry serious side effects, including heart attack, stroke, neurological disorders, kidney failure, liver failure, and death.
Frequently I am asked to provide a listing of drugs linked to serious side effects. Below I provide a partial listing. Before taking any of the drugs listed below, you should discuss the side effects in detail with your physician and determine if there are substitutes or natural alternatives that could be taken in place of the drugs.
Although FDA approved drugs frequently carry side effects, and in particular cases the potential benefits for the patient can reasonably be found to exceed the risks, when those side effects involve death or serious permanent disability, it is startling for most patients to learn that they may have been prescribed these drugs without being told by their doctors of the serious side effects and that they could instead be taking others that carry few, or no, serious side effects.
The following drugs have been linked to the side effects listed. This list is a subset of all drugs for which serious side effects have been reported. Consult with your physician concerning the side effects of every drug you are prescribed and, in particular, of the following:
- Avandia (Type II Diabetes drug) – heart toxicity (including heart attacks, strokes, heart failure).
- Byetta (Type II Diabetes drug) – acute pancreatitis; renal insufficiency; kidney failure; pancreatic cancer.
- Avastin (cancer drug) – gastrointestinal abnormalities (including perforation); kidney dysfunction; reduced white blood cell count; severe bleeding; heart attacks; strokes; and blood clots.
- Ketek (antibiotic) – liver toxicity.
- Omniflox (antibiotic) – hemolytic anemia.
- Trovan (antibiotic) – liver toxicity.
- Quinolones (antibiotics including Cipro, Levaquin, Floxin, and Tequin) – central nervous system and tendon toxicity; heart toxicity (including arrhtyhmias and QTc interval prolongation); convulsions; torsade de pointes; hypoglycemia; heightened risk of colonization with MRSA.
- Doribax (antibiotic) – seizures, liver toxicity, thrombosis, serious skin reactions.
- Meridia (weight loss drug) – heart arrhythmias; heart attacks; strokes.
- Orlistat (weight loss drug, including Xenical and Alli) – liver toxicity and rectal bleeding.
- Bisphosphonates (Boniva, Fosamax, Actonel) (drugs for osteopenia and osteoporosis) – esophageal cancer, jaw necrosis, brittle bones.
- Serevent (asthma drug) – increased risk of death from asthma.
- Singulair (asthma drug) – increased risk of behavioral changes and suicide.
- Accolate (asthma drug) – increased risk of behavioral changes and suicide.
- Zyflo (asthma drug) – increased risk of behavioral changes and suicide.
- Trasylol (drug to lessen bleeding after surgery) – heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure.
- Lotronex (irritable bowel syndrome drug) – ischemic colitis.
- Zelnorm (irritable bowel syndrome drug) – heart attacks and strokes.
- Baycol (cholesterol lowering drug) – muscle injury (myopathy), including heart failure, and kidney toxicity.
- Crestor (cholesterol lowering drug) – muscle injury (myopathy), including heart failure and the rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle (rhabdomyalysis).
- Zocor (cholesterol lowering drug) – kidney failure; liver toxicity; interstitial lung disease; tendon ruptures; muscle injury (myopathy), including heart failure and the rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle (rhabdomyalysis).
- Zetia (cholesterol lowering drug) – liver toxicity (including liver damage, liver disease, liver failure); kidney failure; hepatitis; acute pancreatitis; and very low platelet levels in the blood (thrombocytopenia).
- Vytorin (cholesterol lowering drug) – liver toxicity (including liver damage, liver disease, liver failure); liver failure; hepatitis; hepatic necrosis; and rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle (rhabdomyalysis).
- Bextra (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) – heart toxicity (including heart attacks and strokes).
- Accutane (rheumatoid arthritis relief) – liver toxicity.
- Arava (rheumatoid arthritis relief) – liver toxicity.
- Humira/Prolia (rheumatoid arthritis relief) – serious infections, neurologic reactions, malignancies.
- Chantix (smoking cessation drug) – increased risk of suicide.
- Seldane (antihistamine) – heart arrhythmias.
- Propulsid (heart burn relief) – heart arrhythmias.
- Yasmin (oral contraceptive) – pancreatitis.
- Ocella (oral contraceptive) – blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, strokes, heart attacks, gall bladder disease, kidney failure, pancreatitis, and death.
- Gianvi (oral contraceptive) – blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, strokes, heart attacks, gall bladder disease, kidney failure, pancreatitis, and death.
- Avodart (drug for enlarged prostate) – increased risk of breast cancer.
- Propecia (drug for enlarged prostate) – increased risk of breast cancer.
- Proscar (drug for enlarged prostate) – increased risk of breast cancer.
- Reclast (drug for menopause) – renal impairment.
- Prempro/Premarin/Provera (drugs for menopause) – increased risk of breast cancer; strokes; heart attacks; cardiovascular disease; blood clots; urinary incontinence; cataracts; gout; joint degeneration; asthma; lupus; scleroderma; dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; lung, ovarian, endometrial, and gall bladder cancer; and melonoma.
- Paxil (antidepressant) – increased risk of suicide.
- Zoloft (antidepressant) – increased risk of suicide.
- Effexor (antidepressant) – increased risk of suicide.
- Clozapine (antipsychotic drug) – heart toxicity (including heart attack and stroke).
- Exjade (iron chelator) – linked to sudden death.
More than 200,000 people die each year from prescription drugs. They are often oblivious to the fact that the drugs their doctors have prescribed may include side effects that are life-threatening. The FDA is a great facilitator, aiding the pharmaceutical industry as its real primary mission and relegating patient interests to a secondary consideration.
In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Dr. David Graham said that the American people are virtually defenseless against the onslaught of FDA approved drugs that are unsafe. It is therefore imperative for you to develop an understanding of the risks that drugs carry because your doctor may not inform you of them.
Indeed, although it is a canon of medical ethics to warn patients of such risks, few physicians tell patients of drug risks before they make a prescription.
If you notice a friend or family member taking more prescription medicine than they should, help bring that person to drug addiction treatment centers before it’s too late.
(Jonathan W. Emord is the author of the books The Rise of Tyranny and Global Censorship of Health Information).