Pharma Industry involves one of the highest amounts of research and testing before going into production. Despite that, the truckload of errors and side-effects involved in medications and drugs certainly does not miss the attention. Only very few of these actually get noticed and reported, usually when the results are fatal or serious, but even that counts for a large number. Let us have a look at some of the largest drug and other pharma recalls in history.

1. Johnson and Johnson – Tylenol Recall

The Tylenol recall, which happened as early as 1982, is one of the earliest recall activities, especially self-initiated, not just in the pharma industry, but across domains. And it was at a massive scale as well, at 31mn bottles of the painkiller being recalled. The financial losses accounted for $100mn even then. However, this incident is known for the quick reaction of J&J which after the initial shock and helped them gain more trust as the company’s shares bounced back within two months of the incident. Afterall, J&J had no association to cyanide poisoning which caused the 7 deaths, as a bottle of Tylenol had been tampered with and the tablets coated with cyanide. This also made them more vigilant, as they introduced better packing of drugs and come-up with tamper proof caps.

Courtesy:  University of Oklahoma | United Press International

2. Merck’s - Vioxx Recall

Probably one of the largest impacts in terms of drug recall, Vioxx was a drug famous for arthritis, topping sales charts for over five years along with another similar drug. However, reports found that the drug increased the chances of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks in consumers. It took a while, but the drug was finally recalled in 2004, 5 years after it was introduced. The disturbing fact is that, some reports claim that the drug could have been the cause of nearly 3,00,000 heart attacks and almost 60,000 deaths though official statements say it resulted in about 30,000 incidents with over 3000 affected testifying it. It cost nearly $4.5bn in lawsuits and $320mn more in fines for the company.

Courtesy: Consumer Affairs | Recall Report

3. Darvon, Darvocet – Propoxyphene Recalls, 2010

Propoxyphene was a popular painkiller drug by the 2000’s. Consumers, especially noticed in Europe and America though, were found to have lethal side effects as the drug increased cardiac abnormalities. In early 2010, the European drug regulators banned the use of Dextro-Propoxyphene from the normal market and its usage was subject to medical practitioner’s review. The US soon followed suit, banning the drug by late 2010. 

Darvon and Darvocet were the most affected stakeholders as they were the major drug producers at that time. Other manufacturers too were asked to pull the drug out of the market and refrain from mass production, thought the impact was much smaller. An estimated 10mn pills were taken by consumers in the US a few million more worldwide before the ban. The drug, existing in the market since 1950’s, had been creating issues since as early as 1990’s and is claimed to be responsible for over 1000 deaths since 2005. Darvon still faces lawsuits in this regard and the cost of the recall and lawsuits is estimated to be a few million dollars.

Courtesy: EMA | Personal Injury