The Five Worst Drug Recalls in Recent History

October 14, 2016 by

As a society, we trust that the medications our doctors prescribe will help, not hurt us. Even though prescription drugs go through a rigorous testing and approval process, dangerous and deadly drugs can still get through to market. Here is a look at five of the worst drug recalls in recent history.

1. Vioxx

After five years on the consumer market, pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck recalled Vioxx, a pain reliever for arthritis, in 2004. This recall cost close to $6 billion. As one of the largest prescription drug recalls in history, the recall provoked a public uproar and harsh criticisms of Merck and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Critics claimed that the drug manufacturer and FDA ignored the dangers of Vioxx. At the time of the recall, Vioxx had been prescribed to more than 20 million people. Up to 140,000 suffered from heart attacks or strokes after taking Vioxx.

2. Bextra 

Bextra, like Vioxx, was a pain reliever meant to treat arthritis and other inflammation in the body. Its manufacturer, Pfizer, recalled the drug in 2005 after being on the market for one year. Also like Vioxx, but not as widely or heavily publicized, Bextra was recalled due to increased risk of heart attack and stroke in some patients, but it was also found to cause a fatal skin condition. Pfizer and its subsidiary, Pharmacia & UpJohn, were fined nearly $1.2 billion. It is one of the largest criminal fines imposed on a U.S. drug company.

3. Baycol

Baycol, made by Bayer, was recalled after being on the market for four years. In 2001, Bayer recalled Baycol, a drug for patients with high cholesterol, after it was reported to be the cause of more than 100,000 deaths and connected to a muscle disorder called rhabdomyolysis, a condition that caused the kidneys to clog with protein from dying or dead muscle tissue. The recall cost Bayer $1.2 billion.

4. Able Laboratories Generic Prescription Drugs

In May 2005, Able Laboratories unexpectedly recalled and removed all their generic prescription drugs from the market due to questions about the quality of their manufacturing process. Some of the drugs were scrutinized for being too strong, and others were not effective enough. The FDA also found in its investigation that four of Able Laboratories’ top-level managers falsified and fraudulently circulated misbranded and mislabeled drugs. Able Laboratories went out of business after this recall.

5. Rezulin

The Los Angeles Times gave the first insight into the way Rezulin was recalled in 2000 after one year on the market. Rezulin, an anti-diabetic drug manufactured by Warner-Lambert, was recalled after links with hepatitis and liver failure were discovered. The drug’s approval was controversial due to an accelerated review process in 1997 and the FDA’s delayed responses to complaints about the drug and its eventual recall.

The Attorneys at Hossley & Embry Can Evaluate Your Bad Drug Case

We know that the side effects from a recalled or inappropriately prescribed drug can be devastating to your health and family. If you have been injured or even lost a loved one because of a harmful or defective medication, please give the attorneys at Hossley & Embry a call: (866) 522-9265. You can also fill out our convenient online contact form and we will be in touch promptly. We offer free consultations, and we have the resources available (including charter aircraft) to travel throughout Texas and the United States on short notice to investigate your potential claim.


Campbell, J., Allen, A., & McIntyre, D. A. (2010 December 10). The ten worst drug recalls in the history of the FDA. 24/7 Wall St. Retrieved from

Rezulin recall: Fast-moving FDA hits a new speed bump. (2010 March 22). WebMD. Retrieved from