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5 Drugs That Are No Longer Legal In The U.S.

Have you taken one of these five popular prescription drugs?

These drugs were pulled from the market when the FDA decided that their risks outweighed the benefits. But in some cases, the damage was already done.

1. Accutane

In 2009, pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche announced it would no longer manufacture the notorious acne drug. Generic versions of isotretinoin, which include Claravis and Sotret, are still available.

Isotretinoin has never been banned in the U.S., but personal injury lawsuits are common. Roche faced more than 7,000 lawsuits since the drug was first put on the market in 1982.

Side effects can be severe, and include depression, psychosis, and even suicide. If taken when pregnant, the drug can cause miscarriage and birth defects.

2. Fenfluramine

Fenfluramine was an appetite suppressant used to treat obesity. First introduced in 1973, it only gained widespread popularity as a weight loss drug when combined with phentermine and marketed as “fen-phen” in the early 1990s.

But the drug’s popularity was short-lived; it was pulled from the market when studies revealed that a high percentage of patients who’d taken the drug experienced heart problems. In 1996, The Boston Herald reported on a thirtysomething woman who died within a year of starting to take fen-phen. The FDA requested the drug’s withdrawal in 1997.

3. Bextra

Bextra is the brand name of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug that was once prescribed to treat both arthritis pain and menstrual cramps. Available in the U.S. for just over three years, the popular pain drug posed some serious health risks, including severe skin reactions, gastrointestinal bleeding, and cardiovascular problems such as cardiac arrest and stroke.

The drug’s manufacturer, Pfizer, did not agree with the FDA’s decision to pull the drug in the U.S. Several years later, Bextra was at the center of the largest healthcare fraud settlement of all time, with Pfizer ordered to pay a fine of $2.3 billion. With testimony from more than one whistleblower, the U.S. government found that Pfizer executives were guilty of marketing Bextra to the public illegally.

4. Vioxx

Vioxx was approved by the FDA in 1999. Similar to Bextra, Vioxx was an NSAID used to treat pain and arthritis. Merck, the drug’s manufacturer, emphasized its low risk of gastrointestinal bleeding — a common side effect of other NSAIDs.

Between 1999 and 2003, Vioxx was prescribed to more than 20 million people. But its glory was short-lived; researchers linked the drug to more than 27,000 heart attacks, some of which were fatal. Another study found the drug increased a person’s risk of coronary heart disease by 34 percent.

5. Meridia

Meridia was an appetite suppressant that first appeared in 1997, when it was used to treat obesity related to diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. It was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2010 after being linked to heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers found that patients who had heart disease and took Meridia had an 11 percent risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event. The drug’s manufacturer, Abbott, withdrew the drug at the request of the FDA.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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