It was one step forward and two steps back for safe prescription drugs in 2010.
There was public outcry against Avandia, the heart attack-associated diabetes drug (and the conflicts of interest that kept it on the market) but some say Actos and Byetta, which will take up some of the slack, are no safer.
Meridia, an amphetamine-like diet pill, and Darvon, the pain pill, were withdrawn. But Nuvugil, an extreme and dangerous stimulant was pushed as a "wakefulness" drug for "excessive sleepiness" (including to college kids with their well known narcolepsy and shift study sleep disorder.) And Singulair, Merck's number one asthma and allergy drug, was said to cause ADHD symptoms in children by Fox news this month. Oops.
Meanwhile, even though antidepressants like Paxil and Cymbalta are linked to mood dysregulation and suicide, FDA approved Cymbalta for arthritis and lower back pain this month anyway.
I thought I was fine by Martha Rosenberg
Still, here are some drugs you may want to save for national Take Back Prescriptions day.
YAZ and YASMIN
It sounded too good to be true and it was. Birth control pills which also cleared up acne, treated severe PMS (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD) and avoided the water retention of traditional birth control pills.
But soon after Bayer launched Yaz in 2006 as going "beyond birth control," 18-year-olds were coming down with blood clots, gall bladder disease, heart attacks and even strokes. 15-year-old Katie Ketner had her gallbladder removed, Susan Gallenos had a stroke and part of her skull removed and 18-year-old Michelle A. Pfleger collapsed and died of a pulmonary thromboemboli while at college from taking Yaz says her mother Joan Cummins.
While TV ads for Yaz in 2008 was so misleading, FDA ordered Bayer to run correction ads, Yaz sales are still brisk. In fact, financial analysts attribute the third quarter slump in the Yaz "franchise" of 28.1 percent to the appearance of a Yaz generic not the thousands of women who have been harmed.
Why is Yaz sometimes deadly? It includes a drug that was never before marketed in the US -- drospirenone -- and apparently causes elevated potassium, heart problems, and a change in acid balance of the blood. Who knew? But not only is Bayer still marketing it, women do not receive "test subject" compensation for using it either.
LYRICA, TOPAMAX and LAMICTAL
Why would Americans take an epilepsy seizure drug for pain? The same reason they'll take an antipsychotic for the blues and an antidepressant for knee pain: good consumer marketing. In August FDA ordered a warning for aseptic meningitis, brain inflammation, on Lamictal but it is still the darling of military and civilian doctors for unapproved "pain" and "migraine." Lamictal also has the distinction of looting $51 million from Medicaid last year despite a generic existing, and is the US's most wasteful drug according to the American Enterprise Institute.