Vioxx, one of a new class of powerful painkillers, was launched by the US company Merck in 1999. It was heavily promoted in 80 countries and had annual sales of £1.4bn at its peak. It was withdrawn in 2003 after evidence of a near doubled risk of heart attacks in patients who had been taking it for 18 months. The US Food and Drug Administration estimated it may have caused 27,000 heart attacks in the four years it was on the market.


Avandia was hailed as a turning point in diabetes when it was launched by the British multinational GlaxoSmithKline in 2000. Sales soared and were worth over £2bn a year in the US alone in 2006, when a review showed a significant increased risk of heart attacks. A study in 2010 found more than nine out of 10 scientists who backed the drug had financial links to the pharmaceutical industry. It was withdrawn in Europe later that year.


Tequin was a powerful antibiotic of the fluouroquinolone family used for treating infections of the lung, skin and urinary tract launched by Bristol Myers Squibb in 1999. It was also used to treat some sexually transmitted diseases. In March 2006, a Canadian study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed it could cause “life-threatening side-effects including serious diabetes”. Two months later Bristol Myers Squibb announced it was withdrawing the drug.