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FDA Drug Recall Information
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Ask a Healer Prescription Drugs Series

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Just a few of the FDA-Banned Drugs - Got a bone to pick with the FDA - Where is the drug recall info?


Update, August, 2011: Since writing this article, I've gone back to the FDA website and was very pleased to see that they had made some changes. To read about the changes, go to FDA article: Improving Recall Information for Consumers. Also noted that you can sign up to be notified of new recalls. If you are on prescription meds, I'd definitely sign up for that.

In a recent visit to the FDA website, I found it interesting that recall information on drugs is harder to find on the website than all these nutritional recalls. When I typed in the words "prescription drug recalls", I got this message:

Your search - "prescription drug recalls" - did not match any documents. No pages were found containing "prescription drug recalls".

If I tried just the word recalls, the first thing that came up was cheese balls that were being recalled, there's that nutrition target again. Amazingly enough, when I searched for drug recalls, again, the cheese ball recall was first. What does that have to do with drugs?

I did find a page that listed medications where there is an FDA safety alert. That list is quite extensive. It appears that the FDA is very, very, very busy finding health products that have been contaminated or which contain misleading ingredients lists. The drug recalls are lumped in with every other recall, making them much harder to find.

Ambiguous Recalls Explanations: Another interesting thing I noticed, in reading dozens of recalls on nutritional products specifically, is that they were only "possibly" dangerous. Most read "possibly diverted to retail stores" or "slight chance of contamination". So, they are recalling a lot of things that aren't even proven to be harmful. I'm not saying they shouldn't have been recalled but I am saying that the numbers can be misleading, unless you read the fine print.

One thing, among others, that I found frightening were the amount of blood products recalled due to being stored at an unacceptable temperature, being mislabled, or contamination. It would make you think twice about getting an infusion but I supposed, in most cases where an infusion is required, that risk is preferrable to the alternative of not having one.

While I am grateful for the amount of attention given to keeping us safe from what we eat, I'd be thrilled if the FDA turned that investigative eye as closely to prescription drugs that have already been passed and are being used by millions, before people die from them.

According to Dr. Peter C. Butler (Dr. Butler heads endocrinology at U.C.L.A. and is a former editor of Diabetes, the American Diabetes Association journal), there is an association between the diabetes medicine Januvia and pancreatic cancer but the FDA fails to even issue a mandate for a safety warning label on the medicine! Since then, the FDA has backed off the alert but Diabetes Health and other online researchers still are concerned about a link. The article linked above says the risk can be reduced by taking Januvia with Metformin. Based on Dr. Burke's latest study, both the Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency have begun investigations that could lead to new warnings on the drugs, or even to their removal from the market. Or they could result in no action at all. The research is ongoing. The thing is, the FDA can takes years and years to ban a drug. The drug Darvon was introduced in the 1950s. In 1978, the public interest group Public Citizen started a petition to ban the drug claiming that it cause heart attacks. It again filed a petition in 2006. It took until 2010 for the FDA to ban Darvon.

I'd also love it if they would better test prescription drugs for harmful and potentially life-threatening interactions with other drugs used to treat the same, or a related, condition. In my own life, I've had several relatives and friends end up with a worse situation after a drug interaction, than they had before they started taking the drugs. This should not be happening, or at least, should not be happening with the frequency that it does seem to happen.

Partial List of Banned Prescription drugs:

Avandia (rosiglitazone maleate), prescribed to treat diabetes. Banned due to these side effects: liver failure, hepatitis and heart failure

Baycol (cerivastatin), prescribed to treat high cholesterol. Banned due to these side effects: fatal rhabdomyolysis

Bextra (valdecoxib), prescribed to treat arthritis. Banned due to these side effects: heart attack and stroke, diseases of the skin

Dexfenfluramine (fen/Phen) prescribed to treat obesity. Banned because it caused heart valve damage in some users. This is different than the herbal fen/phen, containing ma huang though ma huang has also been banned by the FDA.

I hope to be adding pages soon to address additional drug recalls and warnings on prescription drugs such as paxil and zoloft. Let me know if you want me to research issues with other prescription drugs.

Health Care Disclaimer: If you have taken a prescription drug that later was recalled by the FDA or, as in the case of Vioxx, by the drug manufacturer, talk with your doctor about any increased risk of health complications you may face as as result. A doctor would be understanding of the legal implications of complications as well as understanding of perspectives of pharmaceutical lawyers.