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Public Citizen Launches WorstPills.org, a Comprehensive Online Database That Lists Dangerous Prescription Drugs and Provides Alternatives

Jan. 12, 2005

Public Citizen Launches WorstPills.org, a Comprehensive Online Database That Lists Dangerous Prescription Drugs and Provides Alternatives

Revamped Site Coincides With Release of New “Worst Pills, Best Pills” Book; Both Warn Consumers About Dangerous Drugs and Safer Alternatives

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen has launched a new Web site, www.WorstPills.org, that provides consumers with comprehensive information about 538 prescription drugs and warns them of 181 drugs that are unsafe or ineffective.

The searchable, online database also provides information about drug pricing, outlines 10 rules for safer drug use, has monthly issues of Public Citizen’s Worst Pills, Best Pills newsletter and enables users to sign up for e-alerts about newly discovered drug dangers. People looking for information on the site can search by drug, medical condition or by drug-induced disease. The Web site contains the entire contents of the just-published edition of the book, “Worst Pills, Best Pills,” including a new chapter on dietary supplements.

The site is particularly valuable to consumers because Public Citizen has a strong track record of identifying dangerous drugs well before federal regulators take action to ban or put warnings on these drugs. For example, in April 2001, Public Citizen warned consumers against taking Vioxx because it increases the risk of heart attack. But it wasn’t until this fall that Merck pulled the drug from shelves, citing its increased heart attack risk.

Vioxx was the ninth prescription drug to be taken off the market in the past seven years that Public Citizen had previously warned consumers not to use. For four of the drugs – Vioxx, Baycol, Rezulin and Serzone – Public Citizen issued warnings more than two years before their removal from the market. Similarly, Public Citizen warned patients not to use Celebrex three and a half years before the government announced that a study showed it increased heart risks.

“As recent events have shown, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which receives well over $100 million a year in funding from the drug industry largely to review drugs more rapidly, doesn’t do a good job of protecting people from medications that can seriously harm or kill them,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “We provide consumers with indispensable and potentially life-saving information that they can’t get anywhere else – certainly not from the federal government or drug industry.”

WorstPills.org has existed since January 2003 in a less comprehensive form; the revamped site has been redesigned and updated with all the data in Public Citizen’s newly released edition of “Worst Pills, Best Pills,” a book that has sold more than 2.2 million copies since first being issued in 1988. The updated book, just published by Simon & Schuster, is available in bookstores this week.

Public Citizen obtains information by gathering and analyzing all available records about prescription drugs – sometimes even suing the federal government to obtain them. While others have created sites about prescription drugs, Public Citizen’s is exceptionally comprehensive, and Public Citizen is the only group to warn consumers against using certain drugs. Public Citizen does not take government or corporate, money, so it is a completely independent, unbiased source of information. 

“The major drug manufacturers have bombarded consumers with misleading TV and print advertising about prescription drugs, so consumers have a compelling need for unbiased information about safety and effectiveness,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “This effort is part of Public Citizen’s decadeslong commitment to protecting consumers from products that can harm them.”

Prescription drug safety is becoming more relevant as people take more medications. An estimated 100,000 people in the United States die annually from adverse drug reactions, and nearly 1.5 million people are injured so seriously by adverse drug reactions that they require hospitalization.

Because regulators and drug companies are slow to recognize and react to drug dangers, Public Citizen created a “do not use” list of drug consumers shouldn’t take. Big-selling drugs still on the market, but listed as “do not use” on WorstPills.org include: Crestor (for high cholesterol), Darvon, Bextra and Ultracet (pain relievers); the oral contraceptives Yasmin, Desogen and Orthocept; and Meridia (for weight loss).

A year subscription to the Web site, www.WorstPills.org, costs $15, which includes a monthly e-newsletter and electronic updates about dangerous prescription drugs. People who purchase the book can obtain a free six-month subscription to WorstPills.org.   The “Worst Pills, Best Pills” book can be purchased in bookstores or through Public Citizen for $19.95.