Consumers Need to Check for Drug Recalls

WASHINGTON--In an alarming trend, top selling drugs are being pulled from pharmacies after researchers find new, and often fatal, side effects.

Since 1997, 11 popular prescription drugs have been recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after causing deaths or serious injuries. Two weeks ago, Lotronex became the latest to be taken off the market for a reported intestinal side effect. It had been on the shelves for nine months.

Although the FDA, under congressional pressure, has sped up the approval process for new drugs, it is not willing to take all the blame. Officials with the administration say that doctors should be paying more attention. Too often doctors are ignoring, or just not reading warning labels.

Doctors counter that the FDA is not appropriately testing new drugs before releasing them to the public. Every medication is tested on a few hundred to a few thousand patients. There are 82 workers who track the side effects once these drugs reach the market. With such a small pool of test patients and researchers, the FDA often has to sit back and wait to see what side effects occur when millions of Americans start using a new prescription.

If a problem arises, the FDA tries to issue warnings, but they often go unheeded. For two years, the administration warned that heartburn drug Propulsid should not be prescribed to people with kidney or heart disease. However, the warning was ignored and the drug was taken off shelves last summer after a reported 80 people died.

The FDA and doctors agree that patients should ask more questions about new prescription drugs. Patients should also be cautious about taking drugs that have not been on the market for more than a year. Most side effects are spotted within the first year of sale.

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