2014 was a year marked by some of the largest revelations concerning dangerous products in the pharmaceutical and automotive industries, followed by nationwide recalls and massive public outcry over the safety of consumer products. This past year, clear chart toppers include the General Motors ignition switch, antibiotic Avelox, anticoagulant Xarelto, anti-nausea medication Zofran, and hip implants.
General Motors: In February 2014, General Motors recalled 2.6 million of its vehicles for faulty ignition switches that cause the vehicle to power down unexpectedly, disabling safety features such as airbags and power steering. Shortly thereafter, evidence emerged that the recall was in fact a decade overdue, covered-up by GM who had knowledge of the issue since as early as 2001 but failed to notify the public. The number of vehicles recalled for ignition defects has skyrocketed since the initial recall was issued, and the defect has attributed to 42 deaths and thousands of injuries. The bellwether trial over GM’s faulty ignition switch recall is scheduled to begin in January 2016.
Avelox: Popularized by hospitals, Bayer Healthcare and Merck & Co.’s antibiotic Avelox came under fire in 2014 for its potentially permanent side effects—including peripheral neuropathy, leading to nerve damage, numbness, burning and tingling—not fully explained by the drug’s warning labels. After a study was released in August 2014 determining that the use of these drugs doubles the risk of peripheral neuropathy from non-users to users, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed by patients who have experienced these debilitating side effects.
Xarelto: Dubbed the “new generation” of anticoagulants, Xarelto’s benefits have been touted by its manufacturers Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals as a “novel, once-daily, oral anticoagulant” that doesn’t require its users to conduct routine blood monitoring, as with the generic version of the drug, warfarin. However, after numerous complaints were filed against the drugmakers claiming injury, even death, from bleeding events after taking the drug, dozens of suits were consolidated in December 2014 in a move that will potentially help many others seeking relief from the damage caused by Xarelto.
Zofran: Zofran has often been prescribed by doctors to treat severe nausea caused by chemotherapy or surgery—but never has it been approved by the FDA to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. Unfortunately, many expectant mothers that took Zofran in their first trimester delivered babies with cleft palates, cleft lips, or certain congenital heart defects. GlaxoSmithKline’s illegal marketing and misrepresentations of its drug Zofran has led to several individual lawsuits in 2014 that are proceeding in early stages.
Hip Implants: Metal-on-metal hip implants have been surgically inserted in at least 500,000 people over the past decade, but sadly many patients have not been made aware of the associated risks, including the release of metal particles into the bloodstream leading to soft tissue damage that can cause the device to fail and require revision surgery. Recalls of several popular metal-on-metal hip replacement devices have been issued, including Stryker—which was the subject of a $1.4 billion settlement reached in November 2014 after 4,000 cases were consolidated.