Prescription drugs are supposed to help treat maladies, prevent or relieve symptoms, lessen the chance of sickness, or even cure illness. Unfortunately, there are times that the drug itself causes damage or increases the risk of suffering illness to the point that people are better off not taking it. These are known as “defective drugs.”
Legal drugs are supposed to go through extensive testing by their manufacturers and then get approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they go on the market. In an ideal world, this would be all it would take to keep defective drugs from being sold. In the real world, however, the process is complicated by the drug manufacturers’ desire to get their latest discovery into sales channels as fast as possible. A “blockbuster” drug can be worth billions of dollars, but sometimes companies get overwhelmed by this desire and resort to unethical methods to make it happen.
Lapse of Judgment
When companies become too caught up in the profit potential, they can no longer accept a negative result. These unethical companies will hide or downplay bad results their tests unveil. The FDA, swamped with applications, will often miss this fact-massaging. In the rush to try to process all the applications, they also don’t have time to conduct adequate tests of their own. Furthermore, the researchers who are responsible for publishing test data often don’t have access to all the facts, leading published data to be overly positive about some new drugs. Combined, these things allow defective drugs to slip through the system and hit the market.
Banning Prescription Drugs
Making matters worse, banning a defective drug is a hard process. For the government to ban a drug, they have do extensive tests to prove that its risks outweigh its benefits. This is made harder by the fact that for the drug to have been approved in the first place, the government had to accept previous tests showing its safety. Therefore there often has to be a veritable storm of negative information about a drug before the FDA will finally go with it and renounce its own previous rulings.
Under product liability law, however, the drug manufacturers are legally responsible for all serious side effects their products cause – including deaths – whether the drug is officially still legal or not. Often, a defective drug is forced off the market not by the FDA, but by a tsunami of lawsuits that make it unprofitable to keep producing it. For a lawsuit to be successful, the plaintiff does not have to conduct multimillion-dollar studies like the FDA does. He or she need only show enough evidence to convince the court.
Consult Your Physician
There are ways to reduce your risk of ending up taking a defective drug. Make sure you ask your doctor about all potential side effects, and make sure to tell him or her about all your other medications and conditions so he can spot potential conflicts between your medications. Also, do your own research; your idea of unacceptable risk may differ from your doctor’s opinion.
Selecting an Attorney
If you have been harmed by a defective drug, you may be able to sue and gain an award of compensation from the drug’s maker and other responsible parties. Consulting with an attorney qualified in medical product liability law is a good idea in these cases. Together, you can explore your options and pursue the right course.