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Are We Big Pharma's Guinea Pigs? 8 Drugs Used by Millions Before Being Pulled for Dangerous Side-Effects

Published: December 6, 2014
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Source: Alternet

Because of patent pressure, minor drug risks are often only admitted when the patent runs out, a ruse AlterNet has written about. But when risks can't be ignored, even if the drug is selling briskly, the drug will be unceremoniously withdrawn and seldom mentioned again. Here are some blockbusters in the drug graveyard that Big Pharma hopes we will forget about.

Perhaps no blockbuster drug equaled the crash and burn of Merck's Vioxx. Billed as "super-aspirin" for everyday pain whether menstrual or arthritis, Vioxx was aggressively advertised by celebrity athletes like skater Dorothy Hamill and track star Bruce Jenner as a wonder drug. Except that it wasn't.

The Vioxx saga was the first time in recent memory that the possibility of deliberate Pharma subterfuge surfaced. Even as 20 million people were using Vioxx, it was found to double the risk of heart attack—and Merck was reported to have known about the risk. According to many news reports, Vioxx's cardiovascular risk data was deliberately withheld from the FDA, medical journals, the drug-taking public and their doctors, presumably so Merck could get its "patent's worth."

In Merck's 1999 annual report announcing Vioxx, the drug giant could barely contain its glee. "Vioxx—Our Biggest, Fastest and Best Launch Ever!" it trumpeted, predicting the drug would graduate from being a mere painkiller to preventing Alzheimer's disease and colon cancer. Instead, Merck found itself compensating 20,591 heart attack and 12,447 stroke plaintiffs in 2010 out of a $4.85 billion settlement fund. Some press reports placed the number of heart attacks linked to the super-aspirin at 140,000.

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