Around 48.7 percent of people in the U.S. use at least one prescription drug in a month, while 21.8 percent use more than three drugs monthly, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Statistics also indicate that, every year, around 2.3 billion drugs are provided or ordered by doctors' offices. Prescription drugs are therefore billion dollar businesses for pharmaceutical companies, as they are imperative to cure medical conditions and save millions of lives.

Unfortunately, prescription drugs can also cause harm. Some of these drugs may have dangerous side effects that can cause severe health issues, even leading to death. In fact, it is a serious concern that injuries caused by dangerous drugs are on the rise in the U.S., despite the actions taken by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For example, major drug companies had to pay $7 billion in penalties, fines, and lawsuits between 2004 and 2010.

Types of Defective Drugs

Before we discuss much about the legal consequences of defective drugs, let's take a look at the types of defective drugs.

1. Type 2 Diabetes Drugs

Type 2 diabetes drugs are often linked with cardiovascular problems, including heart failure. There are thousands of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies manufacturing diabetes drugs, especially Actos and Avandia, where the companies had to pay billions of dollars for settlement.

2. Birth Control Pills

So many American women use birth control pills without even realizing their life-threatening side effects. These pills can cause stroke, blood clots, and even death. Birth control pills like Ocella, Yasmin, and Yaz can increase your risk of developing blood clots significantly, causing several medical conditions like deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms.

3. Antidepressants

Antidepressants, like serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are used to treat patients suffering from depression and similar conditions. While these medicines can give certain relief to patients, they can cause serious side effects like birth defects, withdrawal symptoms, and even suicidal tendencies. Some of the antidepressants that are usually linked with such side effects include:

  • Paxil
  • Effexor
  • Zoloft
  • Lexapro
  • Prozac

Acne is a typical problem among teenagers, and some adults also suffer from such pesky skin issues. The market is filled with prescription drugs to treat acne, and many of them are extremely effective to cure severe cases of acne. But, have you ever thought that acne medications can have life-threatening side effects?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has affirmed the dangers of prescription acne medications like Accutane, which specifically has been linked with serious side effects including birth defects (if taken during pregnancy), Crohn's disease, and suicidal tendencies.

5. Osteoporosis Drugs

Some Osteoporosis drugs, such as Fosamax, can lead to increased bone fractures. Reports also indicate that this prescription drug can also cause Dead Jaw Syndrome or osteonecrosis of the jaw, which can further cause the death and collapse of the jawbone.

6. Dialysis Treatment

For people suffering from chronic kidney disease and kidney failure, dialysis is perhaps the best option to remove waste and excess water from the blood. However, drugs used in dialysis treatments, such as GranuFlo and NaturaLyte, can cause lethal side effects when used incorrectly. In fact, these drugs can lead to severe conditions like cardiac arrest and metabolic alkalosis.

7. Epileptic and Antipsychotic Drugs

Antipsychotic and epileptic drugs often lead to severe heath conditions. Depakote, which is used for treating mood and seizure disorders, for example, can cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy. Besides, it is linked with liver failure and pancreatitis. Drugs like Topamax (used to treat epilepsy) can also cause oral birth defects (cleft palate) and metabolic acidosis.

Similarly, Risperdal, which is a common antipsychotic drug, can reduce the number of white blood cells and lead to neuroleptic malignant syndrome, requiring the patient to be admitted to intensive care immediately.

8. Antibiotics

Zithromax or Z-Pak, a powerful antibiotic drug used to treat bacterial infection in both children and adults, has been under the surveillance of FDA for a while. The federal organization has released warnings against this drug, stating that it can cause fatal heart problems. In fact, people suffering from pre-existing heart conditions must be more careful using such antibiotics.

9. Heart Disease and Stroke Drugs

Pradaxa has been named as one of the defective blood thinners, which can cause fatal complications including heart attack, liver failure, uncontrolled bleeding and so on. Crestor, another popular prescription drug used for treating and preventing heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease, can cause rhabdomyolosis (which further causes kidney failure and eventually death of the patient) and type 2 diabetes.

Cholesterol drugs, like Zocor, are also linked with rhabdomyolosis and various other severe muscle injury.

Defective Drugs and the FDA

FDA already has certain strict guidelines, policies, and standards for pharmaceutical companies for ensuring consumer safety. However, we still hear so many stories of defective drugs that come with severe side effects ranging from heart disease and organ failure to birth defects and even suicidal behavior. The question now arises: If the FDA is so strict with its policies, how do these faulty drugs get into the market? It is simply because the processes is typically slow-moving.

It often takes years before people realize the dangerous side effects of a prescription drug. And by the time the defective drug is removed from the market (it can take even longer), enough damage has been done. Thousands of people are harmed or killed, and manufacturers usually get off by just paying a penalty to the plaintiffs.

If you or a loved one has suffered due to defective drugs, the first thing that you should do is to consult with an experienced pharmaceutical litigation lawyer in your area. For example, a St. Louis defective drug lawyer will help you obtain compensation for medical bills, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and lost income, etc. if you are placed somewhere in Missouri. However, it is also your responsibility to consider all potential side effects when using a new prescription drug, although the manufacturer claims it to be safe.


Although meant to save lives, prescription drugs can sometimes have fatal side effects and significant health risks, leading to disabilities, serious injury, and even death. Even FDA's approval does not guarantee the safety of a drug. So, next time your doctor prescribes you a new drug, make sure you that ask about its potential side effects before you start using it.

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Author's Bio: 

Casey Flynn is Attorney at Carey Danis & Lowe a St. Louis-based litigation firm headquartered in Missouri. He concentrates his practice on the areas of consumer-class action litigation, complex commercial litigation, medical malpractice, and products liability litigation and has done tremendous appellate work in all of these fields.