Defective drugs are a serious threat to health, but it’s an all-too-common problem affecting people who rely on pharmaceuticals to manage chronic and acute health conditions.
A recent example of this is the drug Elmiron, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which was recently the subject of a lawsuit over concerns that the drug causes vision damage in the form of a condition called pigmentary maculopathy. Users of the drug report blurred vision, vision loss, eye pain, sensitivity to light, difficulty reading or seeing up close, and other symptoms of the condition.
Elmiron is used to treat interstitial cystitis (IC), a bladder disorder that causes pain. Over 1 million people have taken the drug or its generic counterpart to treat this disorder, as it’s currently the only drug available for IC.
The Elmiron case is just one of many. Several different anti-epilepsy drugs prescribed widely to pregnant women, particularly in Europe, have been implicated in causing severe birth defects. However, investigations have found that these women have largely been blindsided by this impact, because no public awareness or information has been made available to them previously.
What can I do to stay aware?
It can be frightening to wonder if your own pharmaceuticals may cause harm to your health. Before you start any new prescription, here are some questions to ask your doctor that can at least generate conversation and awareness about the safety:
- What are the known and potential risks, allergic reactions or side effects this drug can cause?
- How long will the drug’s course take?
- What is the name of the drug and its generic version?
- How long has it been on the market, and are there studies on its long-term effects?
- Are there any tests or health monitoring that go along with taking this medication?
- Do the benefits outweigh the known risks?
While your doctor should be able to answer all of these questions, it’s often not until years after a drug emerges that its risks are detected. When starting any new drug, it’s good to be aware of all of the possibilities, and to seek as much information as you can about it.