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Ban Sought on Lethal Painkiller

Vioxx may be the most popular lethal drug these days about which most people are aware. Public Citizen's latest FDA petition for a ban on a group of popular painkillers whose active ingredient is propoxyphene -- Darvocet and Darvon are probably the most popular brand names -- is a good reminder familiarity and a lack of publicity don't make all those other drugs any less harmful.

More than 2,100 accidental deaths patients were blamed on propoxyphene between 1981-1999 and several hundred more have died since then, according to a petition sent by Public Citizen to the FDA. And, thanks to the addictive nature of propoxyphene and codeine, an estimated 21 million used one of them for non-medical reasons, according to a 2004 report.

Despite its waning popularity, American physicians still wrote an amazing 23 million prescriptions for drugs containing propoxyphene, despite reports they offered little benefit in treating pain. At least some countries recognize the danger: A similar ban was enacted last year in the UK based on findings propoxyphene was responsible for some 400 accidental deaths and suicides annually.

The FDA has roughly six months to respond to the petition, but will they make the right call? Considering the agency's dubious track record, I think not.

Yahoo News March 1, 2006

USA Today March 1, 2006

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