Despite rigorous testing and clinical trials, many prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause severe complications and even death, requiring massive recalls to keep the public safe. Since 1962, the FDA has been responsible for testing and approving the safety of medications; even with their oversight many recalls have taken place.
5 of the Worst Medication Recalls In History:
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) – Recalled in 1975 after 37 years on the market, DES was prescribed to pregnant women to help prevent miscarriages and other complications. In 1971, evidence suggested a link between DES and clear cell carcinomas, rare vaginal tumors, that kept appearing in the daughters of women who had taken DES during pregnancy.
- Fenfluramine/Phentermin (Fen-Pen) – After 24 years on the market, Fen-Pen was recalled in 1997 after studies found consumers taking the drug had an increased risk for heart disease and other pulmonary problems. Fen-Pen reached the height of popularity in the 1990s when it was used by as many as 6.5 million people for weight loss.
- Terfenadine (Seldane) – Released on the market in 1985, Seldane was a popular antihistamine to treat allergies because it did not cause drowsiness. In 1997, it was recalled once it was found to cause cardiac arrhythmia or abnormal electrical activity in the heart. By the time of its recall, Seldane was sold world wide and used by over 100 million patients.
- Cerivastatin (Baycol) – Although Baycol was only on the market for four years, it has been responsible for over 100,000 reported wrongful deaths. Introduced in 1997, it was prescribed to help lower cholesterol. Shortly after its release it was found to cause rhabdomyolysis, a rare muscle disorder that clogs the kidneys with protein from dying muscle tissue.
- Rofecoxib (Vioxx) – Prescribed as a pain reliever for arthritis, Vioxx was used by more than 20 million patients. It was recalled in 2004 after five years on the market when it was found to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The public was particularly alarmed with the recall when allegations that both the manufacturer and the FDA ignored evidence the medication was dangerous.