Profits Outweighed Safety Concerns with Propulsid

According to a recent article in the NY Times, in 1998 the makers of the heartburn medicine Propulsid negotiated a new warning label rather than remove it from the market in spite of overwhelming evidence of its dangerous, sometimes fatal, effects. Johnson & Johnson continued to promote the drug to children in spite of evidence showing the drug caused serious heart problems. Two years later, as such reports mounted, Johnson & Johnson continued to aggressively market the drug but then abruptly pulled it from the market before a governmental hearing threatened to draw attention to the drug’s long, hidden, record of trouble. Documents from lawsuits against the drug’s manufacturer show that the company did not conduct safety studies urged by federal regulators and the company’s own consultants that could have revealed the drug’s dangers early on and saving countless lives. According to the NY Times, Propulsid’s history has “striking parallels with the painkillers now at the center of the controversy. Dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson that might have warned doctors away were never published, just as the pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer failed to publish an early study of Celebrex that indicated a heart risk. And Johnson & Johnson was able to delay and soften some proposed label changes, just as Merck later did with Vioxx.” Drug companies are more concerned with profits than protecting and helping consumers.