Every drug has the potential to cause dangerous side effects. Every drug affects the function of the human body. Drugs are discovered, designed, studied, and marketed to provide beneficial effects by alleviating symptoms or curing disease pathologies. Their potential benefits of new pharmaceuticals is what makes the drug industry worth more than $650 billion on the global market. Because of their powerful impact on the human body, no drug is without side effects. Some of these are benign or inconvenient. Others are toxic or life-threatening.
While the process of studying drugs, proving their medical benefit, and proving their potential side effects is well established, preventible error and overt negligence can be a part of the process. Unfortunately, some prescription drugs are introduced to the market before they have been adequately studied. It is only after they are widely available that adverse effects become obvious. The list of adverse effects due to prescription drug use is long. While the federal government, under the aegis of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), monitors and approves drug use in the United States, this does not prevent patients from suffering debilitating effects from prescribed medications.
While thalidomide was never approved by the FDA in the U.S., this drug provides the template for all current drug studies and precautions being presented for FDA approval. This medication was studied in Europe and approved by many European agencies for prescription use to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. It soon became apparent that the preliminary studies did not account for the drug’s ability to cross the placental barrier and cause horrible, preventable birth defects in babies born to mothers who took this drug as prescribed. Since then, the FDA has instituted a rigorous protocol of scientific, double-blond clinical trials comparing a prospective drug to a placebo to ascertain the drugs effectiveness and side effects.
Statistical data can be a slippery thing. When a pharmaceutical manufacturer has expended millions of dollars to develop a new medication, its scientists may overlook potential hazards. This was the case with fenfluramine/phentermine, which was marketed as Fen Phen in the 1990s. While the risks associated with fenfluramine were known, studies submitted to the FDA indicated that the risk was low when this chemical was combined with phentermine. Soon, after the FDA approved distribution, it became apparent that this medication caused deformities of the heart’s mitral valve and led to potentially fatal primary pulmonary hypertension. The drug was recalled and individual lawsuits have granted over $21 billion in compensation for persons who suffered from adverse effects after they took the drug in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations under physician guidance.
Medical liability lawyers continue to gather evidence and present cases on behalf of their clients based on the adverse effects their clients’ have suffered due to dangerous prescription drug use. These include persons who have been prescribed painkillers, sleeping pills, statins and other cholesterol medications, heart medications, cough, cold, and flu medications, arthritis drugs, anti-seizure drugs, and birth control pills.
Dangerous drug lawyers represent people who have suffered from injury due to prescription medications, but they also present cases for people who suffer injury to over-the-counter (OTC) products. Just because a medication or supplement is available without a prescription, does not make it safe. The FDA has ordered OTC cold, cough, and flu medications off the shelves when marketed as remedies for children, due to their dangerous, sometimes fatal, effects. OTC weight loss products and dietary supplements have also been recalled by order of the FDA. OTC products, like any substance that affects the body’s function, interferes with other medications circulating in the human body and it can negatively impact the liver and kidneys, causing permanent damage, as well as interfere with the action of the heart.
When drugs are prescribed, a patient should work closely with his or her licensed healthcare provider, sharing all the appropriate information of their health history and medication regimen. No drug is safe. Prescribing physicians need to know every aspect affecting their patient’s health in order to devise an appropriate treatment plan. Physicians guide their treatment according to the information available to them, from their patients and from drug manufacturers, from published medical literature, and from ongoing clinical studies, as well as from direct experience.
When a physician, a drug manufacturer, a dispensing pharmacist, or any other dispensing agency, such as home health aides or skilled nursing staff, fails to adequately weight the risks versus the benefits of any medication for patients under their care, a patient who suffers a personal medical injury due to their oversight is eligible for legal compensation.