Each year, about 4,500 drugs and medical devices are removed from the US market due to concerns about their safety. Sometimes these issues are temporary, and the medication is returned to the market shortly; in other cases, it may be a long time before the drug can be sold again.
A small percentage of medications never return to shelves. Some drugs are removed voluntarily by the manufacturer, while others are recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Unfortunately, it can take time before the FDA and/or the manufacturer is aware of a potential problem with a drug or medical device – and if the manufacturer finds out first, there’s no guarantee they will be transparent about the issue.
For many patients, this means unexplained symptoms or complications that can go on for months or even years – symptoms that could quickly worsen until the patient is hospitalized for a serious health crisis. The reality is that some people suffer serious side effects from medications and never find out why, while others may not know until years later.
How Do You Know if You Need an Illinois Dangerous Drugs Attorney
If you develop new symptoms while taking a medication, that doesn’t necessarily mean the medication is the cause. At the same time, many people don’t think about the connection if they have been on a medication for years without side effects, then develop a new issue.
Because some medications may cause serious side effects months or even years after you take or begin to take the medication, you might miss the cause of your problems. If you even suspect you have been harmed by a dangerous drug or medical device, we strongly advise you to seek legal advice.
A personal injury attorney can help you sort out what happened and whether a defective drug or device is to blame. In the meantime, here are some signs of a potential problem that you should look out for:
You Suffer Serious Health Complications While Taking a Medication
Every drug has side effects, and your medication is not necessarily defective because you had mild or moderate symptoms while taking it.
But if you’ve suffered a serious or potentially fatal health crisis like a stroke, heart attack, cancer, blood clots, difficulty breathing, organ failure, or anything serious enough to require hospitalization, it’s a good idea to review all the medications you’re taking. In particular, you should study the list of potential side effects of each drug.
Some medications are associated with an increased risk of certain side effects, such as stroke or blood clots, and their prescribing information details this risk. Often this prescribing information will contain notes for healthcare providers, such as, “Patients with a history of X condition should not use this medication.”
In some cases, we find that the healthcare provider prescribed a drug they shouldn’t have based on the patient’s medical or family history. When this happens, we may be able to file a medical malpractice suit against the prescriber and possibly against a pharmacist who filled the prescription.
But things can be more complicated if the health issue you suffered isn’t listed as a potential side effect. Does that mean the two things are unrelated? Maybe, but maybe not. There are two possibilities:
- Your health issue is actually unrelated to the medication. People can have heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, and other serious health problems for various reasons. You might have a family history or lifestyle factors that put you at higher risk.
- The medication caused your health issue, but this particular problem isn’t widely known yet. Either the manufacturer hasn’t identified it, or they have, but they chose to conceal this information, as in the case of Purdue Pharma hiding data about the addictive nature of Oxycontin.
Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to discern the difference between those two possibilities. Your dangerous drugs lawyer will search for other reports of similar problems and review your medical records to help you gain clarity.
In some cases, we may find evidence to suggest the medication was related to your condition.
You Have Health Complications That Even Your Doctor Can’t Explain
This may be the case if your health problem rarely occurs in your demographic group if you have no family history of this issue, and if you have no risk factors for it. For example, it’s unusual for a person in their 20s to suffer a stroke, especially if they have no family history of blood clotting issues or other risk factors like smoking.
If this happens to you, your doctor will try to find the cause so they can prevent further issues. They may check for genetic clotting disorders (even if your family history doesn’t indicate any) or other diseases that can raise the risk of a stroke. If your doctor can’t find any explanation, it’s a good idea to consider the medications or medical devices you were using at the time.
Your Medication Has Been Subject to an FDA Recall or Voluntarily Pulled From the Market
If you hear on the news that your medication has been recalled or pulled from shelves, you should immediately call your doctor for advice about how to proceed.
Sometimes it’s unsafe to stop taking medication all at once – your doctor might recommend slowly reducing your dose over a few days. They will also probably want to prescribe a different drug to continue treating your condition.
When you speak with your doctor, ask if you need any further monitoring or tests. Even if you’re not currently experiencing symptoms, a defective drug could cause issues in the future, sometimes months or years after you stop taking it.
For instance, some studies have linked the heartburn medication ranitidine (previously sold as Zantac and other brand names) to a statistically significant increase in the risk of gastrointestinal and other cancers.
In April 2020, the FDA requested manufacturers pull any medications containing ranitidine off shelves after it was found to contain unsafe levels of NDMA, a probable human carcinogen. The current formulations of Zantac and other heartburn drugs do not contain ranitidine.
However, people who took the medication before 2020 may be concerned about increased cancer risk. Your doctor can help you determine if you need additional screenings.
If you used ranitidine prior to the reformulation and have since developed cancer, please speak with a dangerous drug lawyer to learn your options for pursuing a claim.
You Have Symptoms That Appear After Starting a Medication and Clear Up After Stopping It
Again, you should not stop taking your medication until you’ve spoken with your healthcare provider. If they agree that you can stop taking the drug and your symptoms improve, the medication may have been the cause of your health issues.
However, your attorney will need to work to find additional evidence connecting the drug to your symptoms.
Remember that in some cases, a drug may do permanent damage, and when this occurs, stopping the drug might not resolve your symptoms. For this reason, you should not rule out a dangerous drug situation solely because discontinuing the medication didn’t reverse your condition.
Instead, speak with a lawyer who can explore your health problems in relation to your medications.
What if Your Doctor Says Your Symptoms Are Not Related to Your Medication or Medical Device?
Your doctor may be very knowledgeable, but it’s still possible they are incorrect if they dismiss a possible connection between your symptoms and your medication. There are two reasons you may want to get a second opinion:
- Your doctor may not be aware of the connection. Doctors and other healthcare providers are very busy, but they try to keep up with the latest research. However, it’s possible your physician hasn’t read the most recent study that suggests a link between your medication and your condition.
- Your doctor can only work with the current information. If the pharmaceutical company is unaware of a problem or has purposefully tried to conceal one, there is likely no way for your healthcare provider to know about the problem.
If you suspect a medication or medical device has caused you serious side effects, please speak with a dangerous drug attorney. They may be able to research the situation further to learn if other patients using the same medication have similar stories
How Do You Prove Liability in a Dangerous Drugs Case?
Illinois is a strict liability state, which means that a manufacturer can be held liable for a defective product (including drugs and medical devices) without proof of negligence. In other words, they made the product, so they’re responsible if it harms someone.
However, it’s still necessary to prove that you took the drug and it caused you substantial harm, resulting in damages – medical bills, lost income or earning potential, permanent disability or disfigurement, pain and suffering, or damages associated with wrongful death.
Proving that you took the drug, suffered a serious health problem, and suffered damages is usually not difficult. Proving that the dangerous drug or medical device caused this health problem and the resulting damages can be challenging.
Your lawyer may spend time working to gather evidence – interviewing witnesses, examining your medical records, speaking with medical experts, and requesting documents from the FDA, the drug company, or other organizations.
What Is a Multi-District Litigation or MDL? Do You Have to Join One?
Many dangerous drug cases are consolidated into multi-district litigation or MDL, which means that cases with similar facts are all sent to a single district court for pre-trial proceedings. This helps to reduce the strain on federal courts when there are multiple plaintiffs (injured parties) across multiple jurisdictions – a common occurrence with dangerous drug cases where people across the country may all be using the same medication.
An MDL can simplify things for the early phases of a lawsuit, but the cases remain separate.
After pretrial proceedings and the discovery phase (the sharing of evidence between the plaintiff’s and defendant’s legal teams), each individual case could be transferred back to a local court for trial.
But frequently, these cases are dismissed, receive a summary judgment, or are part of a global settlement, and never go to trial.
If there is already an MDL for the defective medication that harmed you, your attorney may advise you to join it. If there is not currently an MDL, it’s possible one may be formed in the future, or your lawyer might file a motion to request one from the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation.
However, in some situations, they might recommend continuing with a solo case
How Long Does a Dangerous Drugs Case Take?
It varies depending on the facts of the case, how much evidence is involved, how busy the appropriate court is, and whether you’re facing an MDL or a solo case.
Although we will work to resolve your case as quickly as possible, there are many factors we can’t control. Some of these lawsuits can take 2-3 years to resolve, although a few may be settled sooner.
A Law Firm Specializing in Illinois Dangerous Drug Cases
If you or a loved one experienced a serious medical problem that you suspect may be caused by a dangerous drug or medical device, please contact The Fakhouri Firm Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.
Founder and lead attorney Robert S. Fakhouri has recovered millions of dollars for injured people and their families. He graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law and quickly became one of the youngest people ever admitted to the Illinois Bar.
Before founding The Fakhouri Firm at the age of 25, he worked as a legal clerk and litigation associate.
When he’s not fighting for his clients in the courtroom or negotiating with insurance companies, Mr. Fakhouri can be found dispensing accessible legal knowledge to his many followers on social media. He is also fluent in English, Arabic, and Spanish.