5 of the Most Dangerous Pharmaceutical Drugs

Wednesday Sep 26 | BY |
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They may help, but then again, they may put you in the hospital.

Because of a flaw in how the FDA approves drugs, many are pushed through regulatory approval with little to no clinical testing, subjecting thousands of Americans to potentially serious side effects and long-term health problems.

Of all the drugs on the market, these are considered the most dangerous.

1. Pradaxa
Approved in 2010 as an alternative to warfarin, Pradaxa was the subject of thousands of reports to the FDA as soon as 2011. On December 7, 2011, the FDA released a drug safety communication stating they were evaluating post-marketing reports of serious Pradaxa side effects, including life-threatening bleeding and hemorrhaging.

Pradaxa is a blood-thinning drug prescribed for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation to help reduce the changes of blood clots and related strokes. When the product first went on the market, it was advertised as a much better alternative to the popular Coumadin (warfarin), as those taking it didn’t have to have blood tests to check dosage or alter their diets, like they had to on warfarin.

Later, however, doctors in hospitals were faced with frightening circumstances when patients came in suffering internal Pradaxa bleeding. All blood thinners carry a risk of excessive bleeding, but patients on warfarin can be injected with vitamin K, which will reverse the blood thinning activity. Patients on Pradaxa, however, have no readily available antidote, which makes the bleeding events much more serious and potentially deadly.

According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, since Pradaxa was introduced in the U.S., it has been associated with more adverse event reports than any other drug on the market. In the year 2011, there were over 3,700 reports of problems with the medication, including over 2,300 cases of hemorrhages and 542 patient deaths.

2. Opiate-Based Painkillers
The main problem with these drugs is that they are often abused today. According to a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics, the new number one killer is not automobile accidents, but prescription drugs—mainly painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants that promote abuse, dependence, and addiction.

The chief culprits in deadly poisonings include opiate-based pain relievers like Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin and Percocet (oxycodone), codeine, and morphine. These drugs accounted for 40 percent of the fatalities reported in 2011, up from 25 percent in 1999. So concerned was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about this problem that they named the overdoses of prescription opioid pain relievers (OPR) as an “epidemic.”

“The epidemic of overdoses of OPR has continued to worsen,” stated researchers in a CDC report. “Healthcare providers should only use OPRs in carefully screened and monitored patients when non-OPR treatments are insufficient to manage pain.”

3. Ambien
Have trouble sleeping? Choose soft music, a hot bath, or a warm glass of milk. Sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata may be as risky as smoking cigarettes, according to recent research. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who took 18 sleeping pills or fewer per year had more than 3.5 times higher risk of death than those who didn’t take any. People taking more than 132 pills a year were at a five times higher risk for death, and a 35 times higher risk for cancer.

“We’re not certain, but it looks like sleeping pills could be as risky as smoking cigarettes,” said study author Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. The researchers noted that more studies need to be done, but considering the known side effects including breathing problems, changes in appetite, burning and/or tingling in the hands and feet, and sleepwalking, it’s best to find natural options for getting to sleep.

4. Topamax and Other Seizure Drugs
All seizure drugs increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and most are known to be linked to birth defects like heart defects and neural tube birth defects. The risk of these side effects may or may not be acceptable if you need the drug to control seizures, but what about if you are suffering headaches?

Because of heavy marketing, drug companies have succeeded in getting these drugs prescribed to prevent migraine headaches. In August 2010, the FDA warned about Lamictal, stating that it can cause aseptic meningitis, or brain inflammation, but it is still being prescribed for unapproved pain and migraines.

5. Tamoxifen
Prescribed to women to prevent a recurrence of breast cancer, this drug was found in an American Journal of Medicine study to increase life expectancy by only nine days. Yet the side effects are numerous and serious. A study in Gynecologic and Obstetric Investigation found that over half of women taking the drug developed atrophy in the lining of the uterus, while over 8 percent developed uterine polyps.

Other common side effects of this drug include bone pain, back pain, headaches, hot flashes, muscle pain, ovarian cysts, hair loss, depression, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. More rare side effects include blood clots and related problems like deep vein thrombosis, stroke, and pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung).

Worst of all? The National Cancer Institute warns that tamoxifen may cause cancer even as it tries to prevent it. Some women taking it to reduce the risk of breast cancer have an increased risk of getting endometrial cancer.

Do you know of other dangerous prescription drugs? Let us know!

* * *

Kevin Gray, “America’s Deadly Pill Crisis: What are the 10 Most Dangerous Meds?” BSI-Bali, December 26, 2011, http://bsi-bali.com/at_bad_pills.php.

Leonard J. Paulozzi, et al., “Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers,” Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 2011;60(43): 1487-1492.

Anne S., “Sleeping Pills May Pose Serious Problems,” The Glenner Memory Care Centers, February 28, 2012, http://glenner.org/sleeping-pills-pose-problems/.

“Foetal epilepsy drug danger shown,” BBC News, June 5, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-13646638.

FDA, “Lamictal (lamotrigine): Label change—Risk of Aseptic Meningitis,” Safety Alerts for Human Medical Products, August 12, 2010, http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm222269.htm.

Ilan Cohen, et al., “Difference Coexisting Endometrial Histological Features in Asymptomatic Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Patients Treated with Tamoxifen,” Gynecol Obstet Invest 1997; 43:60-63, http://content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowPDF&ArtikelNr=291821&Ausgabe=250423&ProduktNr=223845&filename=291821.pdf.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Jan says:

    I’m enjoying your posts Kevin. This just sparked a big “ahha” for me, being a nurse and having my father in the hospital right now, with dementia. I still can’t decide what came first, the medications or the dementia. It’s been
    stated many times, that we’re a society looking for a quick fix, and the medication masks the symptoms – usually causing other side effects. It does nothing to treat or get rid of the problem. Why are people ok with that? I’m trying to be proactive and make sure my diet and lifestyle are health based. My poor father is a victim of this medical system that is not health based. very sad.
    My list of medications that are dangerous are most that exist. And then you start mixing them with other meds and you have a cocktail for disaster.
    A better question would be which meds are actually safe?

  2. Kim Head says:

    I have M.S. and unfortunately need pharmaceutical help to get to sleep. The natural stuff doesn’t work, but, I’m looking for the MOST natural drug (besides cannibus) to help me sleep.


    Kim Head

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