Welcome to Joe’s Blog. This is Number 1 and I sincerely hope that you will find my ramblings of interest and worthy of comment. I welcome your feedback.

Even before I started writing about drug-related issues 30 years ago, I was aware of the thalidomide scandal. In the 1950s thousands of babies were born with severely deformed limbs and other malformations. For years thalidomide represented the worst drug scandal in history. That the U.S. largely avoided the thalidomide tragedy was a point of pride for the FDA. The agency maintained that its rigorous testing and high standards protected the American public from this drug disaster.

Fifty years later the FDA is disgraced and in disarray. Over the intervening years we have watched as the agency was slow to recognize serious drug problems. Diet pills like Redux and phen-fen were allowed to linger on the market long after the handwriting was on the wall. The FDA dawdled over the herbal weight-loss and energy booster ephedra while gullible consumers experienced strokes or heart attacks. But all these misadventures pale in comparison to the FDA’s latest screw-up.

The greatest drug disaster in history has occurred while our federal watchdog was asleep at the switch. In fact it wasn’t the FDA that discovered the Vioxx disaster, but rather the manufacturer. When I asked one of the key FDA officials why the agency missed the iceberg that has nearly sunk his organization, he replied that the FDA is not very good at catching common things like heart attacks or strokes. They seem to be able to detect strange or rare complications like liver failure, but “common” problems frequently go undetected.

The FDA still to this day does not know how many people experienced heart attacks or strokes from Vioxx, Bextra or Celebrex and how many died. FDA safety officer, David Graham, MD, has estimated that it could be as many as 30,000 or 40,000 deaths, but that’s just an educated guess. That would make Vioxx the greatest drug disaster in history, dwarfing thalidomide and fen-phen and all the other drug scandals combined.

What is even scarier, though, is that virtually all NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can do the same thing. For decades doctors have been prescribing drugs like ibuprofen (Motrin), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), indomethacin (Indocin), piroxicam (Feldene) and sulindac (Clinoril) to ease patients’ arthritis pain or strained muscles. No one knows how many heart attacks and strokes may have resulted from the hundreds of millions of prescriptions that have been filled over the last 40 years. The number could be in the hundreds of thousands. And even though naproxen (Aleve) has been reported to be neutral for cardiovascular complications, it is not entirely clear that it is perfectly safe either. At the very least, it and all the other NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers that in some cases may lead to hospitalization or even death.

The bottom line is that the FDA has let us down for decades. It has allowed these pain relievers to be marketed without recognizing that millions of people would be put at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Only in the last few years have we seen strong warning labels on prescription-strength NSAIDs. But I doubt that most Americans still to this day realize how dangerous these drugs may be. Perhaps even scarier, we don’t know what other drug disasters the FDA continues to miss.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this sad chapter in American medicine, it is that the FDA is no longer capable of protecting you from dangers in the drugstore. Without adequate warning information, your doctor can’t protect you either.

You’re on your own. Good luck!

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. CAR

    Hi! Have enjoyed your weekly radio program-lots helpful info–thanks. I am doing the raisins & gin & had the pain disappear from my right thumb-so it works. Also, my Dr. wanted me to go on the cholesterol lowering drugs & he reads me the list of side effects & I looked him in the eye & told him I refused to do it. I have bone pain already, why do I want to subject myself to that?
    For 3+ years I have been taking red rice capsules 2x daily, 1 panothenic acid pill, & fish oil & thank you, my cholesterol count has been under 200 & I don’t have all the side affects that these drugs that the FDA & advertisers try so hard to push on John Q. Public. I’ve also taken glucosamine & chondroitin sulfates along with a turmeric, bosweila, & bromelain combo that has helped my arthritis & when I can’t take it, ie. surgery, tests, I can tell a huge difference. Thanks Joe & Terry.

  2. kathy

    I’m so frustrated with this whole generic problem. I was taking Oxycontin 20 mg. for years which was controlling my pain fine. Than because of insurance I switched to Oxycodone 20mg. But now since there’s no more generic Oxycodone I had to go on MS contin 30 mg. So now I take this and I’m in pain and feel like I want to get sick which I usually do get sick.
    I found a company that the MS contin did not make me feel too bad but the pain still is there. There is one company out there that makes MS Contin named Endo GEN Prod. You can take 6 30 mg. at once and the pain is still there but you’re sick to your stomach all the time. Well now they recalled the MS Contin that I could get by with and guess what all that’s left is the Endo Company.
    I don’t know why Insurance’s can make us take drugs that don’t help and just make us sick. Why can’t I take my Oxycontin again and have a real life and not be in pain and sick all the time. It’s not my fault they took the Oxycodone off the market. Is they a way I can take Oxycontin again? I took it for years before my new insurance took over and started changing all my meds around. This just is not right. Its inhumane! I’m so upset about it you just have no idea. thank for listening. kathy

  3. jim f

    Dear Joe & Terry,
    Thanks for your concern. Not many people will take a stand and report the truth anymore. You have just made me aware of the problem I am having with my generic metoprolol, which has been getting worse for months. My blood pressure is fine, even a little low, but I have pvc’s a lot since I started taking a different shaped pill. I went from almost no pvc’s to one every third beat, and the only change was the shape of the pill. Will let you know the outcome soon.

  4. Hc

    I do not understand the FDA but I do know when patients are waiting on a new drug to hit the market they are relentless about getting it for whatever the ailment. i work at a research hospital and I know how the research is skewed.
    The FDA can only base their first decision after they read the research. I take celebrex for RA and if needed I would go to great length to stay on it. It is worth the risk to me. A big majority of patients who take anti-inflammatories have other issues, like arthritis and being overweight. Let’s cool off a little here and think about all the great drugs that help.

  5. james goldman

    When Lipior first came on the market, my cardiologist switched me to it from Zocor, which I had been on for years. He said Lipitor should give better results. After 6wks. on Lipitor my cardiologist wanted me to take a thallium stress test. The same night of the thallium test I was on my hands and knees, feeling like I was poisoned, and I went to the emergency room. They told me they couldn’t find anything wrong.
    The next day when I felt better I told my cardiologist what happened and he said I couldn’t be allergic to thallium. I think I was! I stopped talking Lipitor and had headaches for 3 weeks after that. I’m fine now–but I think that the thallium poisoned me. Any feedback from someone else?

  6. Greg Williams

    You recently had a man talking about diabetes, and he said that if a restaurant labeled a dish as heart healthy, people would shy away from it. About 30 yrs. ago, I was working as a location motion picture caterer, and I served ratatouille. No one would eat it. I put it in the fridge and served it the next day as Willie Nelson casserole, and the gruff old Teamsters, the film guys, everyone ate it and loved it.
    I learned that naming dishes made a big difference in what I could get people to eat–just as I learned putting onions on the grill while people were going through the serving line could encourage people to eat more veggies (helping us to “get rid” of the fresh foods we purchased). A little psychological nudge
    really does help in getting people to eat healthy.
    Greg Williams – Garland, TX

  7. Mary Scholer

    I read the article about ALS, and Lipitor’s possible connections to this disease. I told my family that my slurred speech and balance difficulties were the result of taking Lipitor. I firmly believe this is the case. I only took the drug for 3 1/2 months, but the speech and balance damage is done. My speech seems to be more affected when I am tired or under a great deal of stress. The statins are bad drugs.

  8. Patti

    I have the same report about Carpal Tunnel and Prednisone. I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Shortly thereafter, my son was killed by a drunk driver. I developed PolyMyalgia Rhumatica.
    After trying one anti-inflammatory which didn’t work at all, I was prescribed Prednisone. It started working immediately. Not only did it clear up my PMR, but it ‘cured’ my Carpal Tunnel.

  9. Sheiila Henderson

    I took a generic 800mg of “MOTRIN”. My ears are STILL ringing.
    We went on a road trip the last weekend of Oct.2006. That early fri morning I took a generic “Motrin” 800 mg in advance, as it was going to be a rather long road trip.
    The next evening, with supper, I took another generic “MOTRIN” 800 mg. (as tourists, we did a lot of walking and sitting and I wanted to take these as a preventative).
    I awoke the next morning, Sunday, with ringing ears. I am on an enteric coated baby-dose/adult low-dose aspirin daily. No problems with that from July 2004 until the last sunday in OCT, 2006, when I took the two generic MOTRIN-800’s in a 36 hr. period.
    Hey, could any body tell me if the (NON-time-release) “motrin” caused the ringing? (I thought the thing was time-released, being 800 mg and all….I should have KNOWN better….)
    Here it is, July 2007 and my ears still are ringing;and it does not sound like the OUTSIDE-caused ringing, like loud music, etc. This seems internal.
    Thanks for any helpful comments.
    Sheila Henderson

  10. Wally Dawid

    I am currently taking 400mg Gleevec/Day for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.
    Gleevec causes the liver to be agitated and my liver enzymes were 79 in Feb 07.
    Thanks to your website, I started taking Milk Thistle and today my liver enzymes are 37 well within the range of normal 7-56.
    The drs at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston want to know what I am doing because so many patients taking Gleevec are suffering from serious liver disorders.
    Thank you Joe and Terry for looking out for us, and sharing your info.
    My liver is functioning perfectly now, and I thank you, again.
    Wally Dawid

  11. Ginny Watts

    A brief thank you for all the great information in your weekly column in my daily newspaper. There is a big group of people I know that follow your column regularly in the Long Beach (California) Press Telegram. Keep up the good work.

  12. JWhite

    My husband did have problems with restless legs and we tried the bar of soap. Happily, his restless leg syndrome has ceased.
    Also, thought my neighbor had an intersting solution to high blood pressure readings when she was scheduled for outpatient surgery. She remembered older people doing using this technique when she was a child and strangely enough it worked for her. She put Spanish Moss in her shoes and went about her daily activities. Her blood pressure went from high to normal and she was able to have her eye surgery.

  13. carol hartford

    Whenever I read the drug literature regarding the possible bad effects of a drug, I feel fortunate that so many drugs break me out in a rash, that I cannot take them.
    I worked in the medical field for so long. What I found out, is most doctors know only what the drug salesman tell them. The salesman come in every two months and spend time telling the doctor about the drugs. And that is the extent of the doctors knowledge. It is scary.
    I take a couple of asprin if my arthritis hurts too much. And one drug for HBP. Thats it. If I can stand the pain, or get by without an antibiotic, I do it. The over use of antibiotics is terrible. We have built up a tolerance, so they sometimes do not work.
    I would rather save my use of antibiotics until I really need it. Doctors over prescribe most medications.
    Carol H.

  14. mary ann Kelley

    I am waiting for many more people to recognize the side effects of statin drugs, which doctors give out like candy. no dr. warned me about the severe muscle pain that goes with it. when i advised him that he suggest that patients take coq 10 he looked at me like i was from another planet.

  15. Manda from Ky

    I understand what you mean about not being able to trust what you get prescribed anymore. I’m 26yrs. old and I just now got in to Herbalogy. Its slow coming, but I will try anything at this rate! The Doc’s medicine is just not working!

  16. Cory Goff

    You’re right and what is worse is that topical NSAIDs, which bypass the stomach and liver, are readily available through a compounding pharmacy, but your doctor probably never mentions that possibility to you. Of course, those topical NSAID prescriptions don’t benefit the big drug companies, so they sure aren’t going to tell you that you don’t need to swallow their pills and risk bleeding ulcers.

  17. Dr. Don Lindley

    The topic “restless legs” has been a topic by Dr. Gott in the Topeka Capitol Journal for at least 3 years by using and putting a bar of soap under the sheet next to one’s legs. Many people have stated this has eliminated the symptom and is being used by many people who write in to Dr. Gott.

  18. Ruth B. Jones

    FDA and most doctors need to be aware of the effects of generics on people with autoimmune probems. I have Sjogren’s Syndrome and can use only 2 generics out of 6 prescription meds. The side effects are drastic in some cases. There needs to be much more info on this syndrome. Also too many doctors don’t know of the side effects of the medicines they prescribe. Please make this information available in your column.
    Thank you.
    Ruth B. Jones

  19. nurse mary

    Thank you for educating the public who seem to believe those ads. I read 2 daily newspaper and all I read about is celebrities and garbage of lack of underwear. thank you.

  20. Rebecca Woodworth


  21. arliss toth

    I was wondering how do you get appointed to the FDA??I worked in hospitals for 20 year and Drs. are absolutely oblivious as to what medicines work. They will give you all the anti psychotics meds you want for anxiety but my gosh ask them for an anti anxiety medication for the patient and they don’t want to give them anything. It might help.The government has these drs. afraid of their own shadow. Health care is disgusting. Our controlled meds should be ukp for review. If patients are responsible people they do not abuse their drugs. We all pay for the people who do.

  22. Edlyn Hynes

    I read your column every Sunday. I lowered my tryglycerides by 47 point by just sprinkling common household “Cinnimon” on my oatmeat everyday or you can take Cinnimon capsules daily and still do the same thing safely with no side effects unless you are allergic to cinnimon.

  23. Cheryl Nash

    Not only are the FDA and AMA not protecting citizens from drug reactions they are not honest about their knowledge concerning genetic disorders contributin to drug reactions. Have the Graedons researched the actual incidence of porphyrias in the world population and the technological problems in diagnosing these disorders in latent genetic carriers and in autopsies?

  24. Chris

    Is it possible for us to change either the people who are in charge of the FDA, or the way it runs its business?

  25. Anne Chanas

    Thank you for your blog, I respect your opinions and advice. I will make it a point to read the blog weekly for good information. Will we learn from the past?

  26. Phil

    Ugh. Disheartening. But better to be forewarned (and reminded of the need on a regular basis) than inappropriately trusting. Thanks for the post. Please keep them coming.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.