Jan. 23, 2003

Public Citizen Launches Online Version of Worst Pills, Best Pills News to Inform Consumers About Prescription Drugs, Supplements That May Endanger Health

Web Site Also Contains Free Information and Consumer Tips

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen has launched an online version of its long-running monthly newsletter Worst Pills, Best Pills News, which contains extensive and vital information on drug safety and effectiveness, dangerous dietary supplements, drug-induced symptoms and drug interactions.

The newsletter, which is edited by nationally known consumer health advocate Sidney Wolfe, M.D., and has more than 140,000 subscribers to the print version, is available at www.worstpills.org, a Public Citizen Web site that also contains a storehouse of free consumer tips and information on medications and the pharmaceutical industry.

Subscribers to the online version of Worst Pills, Best Pills News can access archived newsletter articles from the past two years, mentioning more than 400 prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements that could have dangerous adverse effects. Users can search the data by drug name, disease or condition, or drug-induced adverse effect.

Public Citizen’s Health Research Group began publishing Worst Pills, Best Pills News in 1995, seven years after it first published the best-selling book Worst Pills, Best Pills, which has sold more than 2 million copies in multiple editions. Subscribers to the newsletter learned about potential dangers of medications months or even years before they were withdrawn from the market. These drugs include:

  • Baycol (cerivastatin) – readers warned in March 1998, withdrawn three years later;
  • Rezulin (troglitazone) – readers warned in January 1998, withdrawn two years later;
  • Propulsid (cisapride) – readers warned in August 1998, withdrawn a year and a half later; and,
  • Lotronex (alosetron) – readers warned in August 2000, withdrawn from the market three months later (it has recently been put back on the market but we continue to strongly advise against its use).

Users of www.worstpills.org will find out why they should not use best-selling arthritis drugs such as Vioxx, Celebrex and Arava, the oral contraceptive Yasmin, the antibiotic Tequin, the diabetes drug Starlix, the antidepressant Serzone, the weight reduction drug Meridia, the dietary supplements ephedra and Kava Kava, and dozens of other drugs with better alternatives. More than 1 million Americans die or suffer from dangerous drug-induced illness every year.

"There are hundreds of medications on the market that are extremely dangerous, either by themselves or when taken in combinations with other drugs. Others haven’t been tested long or thoroughly enough, and others are ineffective," said Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. "Patients will be able to use this site to educate and protect themselves, often long before the government issues any kind of warning or drug companies issue a recall."

"Twenty percent of all new drugs are eventually found to have life-threatening adverse effects that are either unknown or undisclosed at the time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves them for use by patients," Wolfe said. "Drugs have been approved even when they are found to have serious safety problems during premarketing trials and even when safer, equally effective treatments already exist. Our newsletter warns our subscribers very early so they are able to discuss a new drug with their doctor before starting to take it."

The free information at www.worstpills.org includes: how patients can protect themselves from adverse drug effects; advice on reporting adverse drug effects; myths about generic drugs; Public Citizen’s petitions to the FDA to ban or relabel drugs; information on clinical trials of drugs; and the political activities and influence of the drug industry. Subscriptions to the online newsletter are $15, for which users get access to the searchable database of back issues of Worst Pills, Best Pills News, 12 new monthly issues, and e-mail alerts about new drug warnings from the FDA and other sources. Each month the Table of Contents is delivered directly to the subscriber by e-mail.

The staff of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, which has a wide scope of medical expertise concerning prescription drugs, has developed and will maintain www.worstpills.org. Dr. Wolfe is available for interviews about this new site.

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