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FDA asks for Voluntary Recall of Zelnorn

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The Food and Drug Administration has told Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation that it wants it to suspend marketing of Zelnorm, used to treat irritable bowel syndrome. The agency said it requested the voluntary action based on recent findings of an increased risk of serious heart problems associated with use of the drug.

But some doctors say there’s nothing recent about the findings. In March 2001, The FDA Was petitioned not to approve Zelnorm because it was only marginally effective and posed serious safety concerns. Besides heart problems, risks included ovarian cysts and fainting spells.

Zelnorm was approved by the FDA in July 2002 for short-term treatment of women with irritable bowel syndrome whose primary symptom is constipation. It was subsequently approved in August 2004 for treatment of chronic constipation for men and women under age 65. Zelnorm is currently marketed in 55 countries.

FDA is advising patients who are using Zelnorm to contact their health care providers to discuss treatment alternatives. Patients who are taking Zelnorm should seek emergency medical care if they experience severe chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, sudden onset of weakness or difficulty walking or talking, or other symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, the FDA said.