Prescription drugs: They can hurt you as well as help you

Here are some of the things you need to know to protect your legal rights

Prescription drugs can be lifesavers, helping millions of people live with all kinds of medical conditions from high cholesterol to thyroid problems to liver ailments. They’re also used in treatment therapies for patients suffering from cancer, high blood pressure and even AIDS.

But there are real risks from prescription drugs as well, especially if they are improperly given, if they are not properly tested before being used or if their manufacturers are careless or deceptive.

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Prescription pills cascade out of a pill bottle in this stock photo. Image credit: ©

Legal cases involving prescription drugs are common.

Earlier this month, a story in The New York Times reported on a study that linked the use of the smoking cessation drug, Chantix, to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes or other serious cardiovascular problems in smokers who didn’t have a history of heart disease.

“The finding added to previous warnings about the pill’s connection to psychiatric problems and cardiovascular risks for people with a history of heart disease,” the Times reported. “It posed a new challenge to a product that has been prescribed to 13 million people and had $755 million in sales last year. Officials of Pfizer, the manufacturer of Chantix, and the Food and Drug Administration responded that they had been planning to conduct a joint analysis of clinical trials on whether Chantix posed heart risks, due next year.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety announcement in June notifying the public that Chantrix “may be associated with a small, increased risk of certain cardiovascular adverse events in patients who have cardiovascular disease. That information was based on a randomized clinical trial of 700 smokers with cardiovascular disease who were treated with Chantix or placebo, according to the agency.

As a consumer, there are lots of things to watch for when it comes to ensuring that the prescription drugs consumed by yourself and members of your family are safe.

The FDA maintains a drug recall Web site where consumers can check to see if a drug has been removed from the market due to defects or potential harm to patients.

The FDA also maintains a site for MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program, where important safety information is logged about drugs and medical products sold in the U.S.

For consumers, the life cycle of a drug doesn’t end when it is sold in the U.S. In fact, all during their product lives on the marketplace, drugs are monitored and tracked to ensure that they continue to be safe for consumers, according to an FDA guide to drug safety terms.

To be an aware consumer, there are several other FDA Web sites to monitor for drug safety information.

The agency releases Public Health Advisories which provide important drug safety information and recommendations that can be taken by patients or caregivers to avoid or minimize harm from a drug. The advisories are issued when the FDA has information that would help doctors and patients make better treatment choices, according to the agency.

Also kept up to date is the FDA Index to Drug-Specific Information, which features an alphabetical listing of drugs that have been the subject of a Public Health Advisory or other safety notice.

The Drugs@FDA database is a Web site where consumers and others can search for information about FDA approved brand name and generic drugs and therapeutic biological products.

An FDA Consumer Health Information site is also available to provide timely and easy-to-read articles on product approvals, safety warnings, and other health information

To best protect your family members, you must be vigilant about drugs that are taken and be sure to watch for any warning signs of medical problems that can arise.

If you or someone you love becomes seriously ill from taking prescription or non-prescription medicines, be sure to seek immediate medical attention for the victim. Then you can begin the task of exploring your legal rights in such a case.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to help you in such cases, from investigating what happened to researching all the FDA and other pertinent records to get to the bottom of the situation.

Drug manufacturers have a legal obligation to produce safe, well-tested products for consumers based on existing laws in the U.S. If they fail in that responsibility, that’s where the legal system becomes your recourse for justice and damages.

If you need us, MyPhillyLawyer will be there every step of the way.

When Winning Matters Most, call the legal team at MPL.