Weird Side Effect 1: Birth Defects
When a woman becomes pregnant, her doctor usually gives her a huge list of do's and don'ts. She should stay away from certain medications, for example, because they can cause problems during pregnancy. There are several prescription drugs that work very well at resolving the condition they were prescribed for, except that they're teratogenic. That means that they can interfere with fetal development and lead to birth defects.
Thalidomide is one of the most infamous teratogenic drugs. First synthesized in Germany in the 1950s, this drug was prescribed as a sleeping aid and anti-nausea pill to thousands of pregnant women in nearly 50 countries (although it hadn't been approved in the United States). Unfortunately, it was never proven to be safe for pregnant women. Between 1956 and 1962, nearly 10,000 women who took Thalidomide gave birth to babies with phocomelia [source: Bartfai and Lees]. Often referred to as "flipper babies," these children were born with extremely short or missing limbs.
Thalidomide was taken off the market and drug testing and approval practices across the world were tightened. Surviving victims of Thalidomide, whose families received compensation from the drug's manufacturer, Grunenthal, are currently seeking additional compensation from both Grunenthal and the German government [source: Reuters]. Thalidomide has recently returned, with strict controls, for treatment of a certain type of leprosy lesion as well as multiple myeloma, a type of cancer [source: Speige].
Accutane is a drug used to treat severe acne that can also cause phocomelia. Because of this, women who are prescribed the drug must commit to following a strict regimen so that they don't become pregnant while taking it. This includes certifying that they will use two methods of birth control (and have an emergency backup) and also have their blood drawn monthly to test for pregnancy before receiving a prescription refill. They also agree not to donate blood so they don't pass the drug on to other women.
Ultimately, all drugs have some side effects, and most of them aren't as weird as the ones we've discussed here. Always read the side effect information that comes with your prescription drugs and discuss them with your doctor.
For more articles on prescription drugs and health care, please see the next page.
More Great Links
- Bartfai, Tamas and Graham V. Lees. "Drug Discovery: From Bedside to Wall Street." Elsevier, 2006.
- Biovail: Vasotec. http://www.biovail.com/english/products/default.asp?s=1&product=6&viewer=patient&state=displayProduct&country=USA
- Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals: Mirapex. http://www.mirapex.com
- Collins, Allyson T. "Strange Side Effects Surprise Patients." ABC News, July 15, 2008. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5374153
- "The Dark Side Of Lariam." 60 Minutes II, CBS News, January 29, 2003. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/27/60II/main538144.shtml
- "FDA Statement Regarding the Anti-Depressant Paxil for Pediatric Population." U.S. Food and Drug Administration, June 19, 2003. http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/ANSWERs/2003/ANS01230.html
- "Girlfriend Believes Chantix Contributed to Texas Musician's Death." ABC News, GMA On Call. http://www.abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/Story?id=3623085&page=1
- GlaxoSmithKline: Paxil. http://us.gsk.com/html/medicines/index.html
- "Hallucinations linked to drug given to troops." MSNBC.com. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6947472/
- Hirschler, Ben. "Thalidomide victims seek compensation, 50 years on." Reuters, April 3, 2008. http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSL0286587320080403?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0
- Lea, David. "Sara Carlin: A life cut way too short." OakvilleBeaver.com, July 19, 2008. http://www.oakvillebeaver.com/news/article/192960
- Melville, Arabella. "Cured to Death." Stein and Day, 1983.
- "Mirapex Victim Awarded $8.2 Million in First Gambling Addiction Lawsuit." NEWSInferno.com, August 2, 2008. http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/3562
- Roche U.S. Pharmacuticals: Lariam. http://www.rocheusa.com/products/lariam/
- Roche U.S. Pharmaceuticals: Xenical. http://www.xenical.com/
- Salamone, Gina. "Diet drug Alli has slim sales." Daily News, July 12, 2008. http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/health/2008/06/12/2008-06-12_diet_drug_alli_has_slim_sales.html
- Sauer, Maddy and Vic Walter. "Tough Questions for VA on Suicide-Linked Chantix." ABC News, July 8, 2008. http://www.abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=5332171&page=1
- Saul, Stephanie. "Some Sleeping Pill Users Range Far Beyond Bed." New York Times, March 8, 2006.
- Sepracor: Lunesta. http://www.lunesta.com/choosingLunesta/is-lunesta-for-me.html
- Speige, Rachel. "Thalidomide gets a second chance." National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education. http://science-education.nih.gov/Home2.nsf/Educational+Resources/Resource+Formats/Online+Resources/+High+School/544E6D04B78B8E9E85256CCD0063E875
- Terris, Martha K. "The Significance of Abnormal Urine Color." Stanford School of Medicine Urology. http://urology.stanford.edu/about/articles/abnormal_urine.html
- "Unsafe sleepwalking, sleep driving linked to pills." CBC News, April 19, 2007. http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2007/04/19/sleep-drug-warning.html
- Van Dusen, Alison. "Top Drugs' Strangest Side Effects." Forbes.com, March 3, 2008. http://www.forbes.com/2008/02/29/drug-side-effects-forbeslife-cx_avd_0303drug.html
- "Varenicline (marketed as Chantix) Information." U.S. Food and Drug Administration, February 1, 2008. http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/varenicline/default.htm
- Westphal, Sylvia Pagan. "'You're My Wife?' Amnesia is Possible Side Effect of Statin Drug." New Scientist, December 6, 2003.
HowStuffWorks looks at the history of chemotherapy as well as newer cancer therapies.