“I’m Chris Bosh,” says the 7-foot Miami Heat basketball star at the beginning of a recent pharmaceutical TV ad. “When I was sidelined with blood clots in my lungs, it was serious. Fortunately, my doctor had a game plan.”
And just what was that game plan? Treatment with Xarelto®, a controversial new blood thinner with booming sales and a star-studded marketing campaign.
Unfortunately for Bosh, though, the game plan might have been a losing one. Xarelto is under fire as thousands of users are stepping forward alleging the drug causes severe side effects, including unstoppable bleeding and death.
One such victim is Jessica Brown, a 37-year-old medical technician living in Florida. Brown began taking Xarelto to treat her irregular heartbeat, a condition that increases the risk of blood clots and stroke. When Brown got her period, the bleeding was so severe that she became too weak to stand or walk. She sped to the ER and received a blood transfusion.
“I could have bled to death,” Brown said to the Miami New Times. “Thank God it was just my period and it wasn’t a head injury or something.”
A Glamorous Drug with a Dark Side
Xarelto was approved by the FDA in 2011 as a game-changing blood thinner that could help prevent strokes for people with arterial fibrosis and other heart conditions. Since then, Xarelto’s sales have skyrocketed — according to the Wall Street Journal, this year the drug will generate over $1 Billion for its makers, Bayer AG, and its marketers and distributors, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
One of the major selling points of Xarelto is that its users do not have to restrict their diet or have regular hospital checkups as they would while using competing drugs. However, with the pros come the cons: Xarelto users are at a greater risk of experiencing serious side effects, including bleeding to death.
Unlike its competitors, Xarelto has no known reversal agent. That means if a user is injured or cut, there may be no way to stop the bleeding, even if they go to a hospital. As a result, thousands of Americans have experienced horrific medical emergencies because of Xarelto. More than 3,400 lawsuits from around the country have been filed against Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
A Game Plan Fraught with Risks
After sinking a 3-point shot in the Xarelto TV ad, Bosh heads to the golf course for a round with his buddies. The buddies: Hall of Fame golfer Arnold Palmer, comedian Kevin Nealon, and NASCAR driver Brian Vickers. Over healthy-looking salads and Arnold Palmers, the friends laugh, joke, and chat about how much they love Xarelto, especially in comparison to its primary competitor, Warfarin.
But what goes unmentioned by this supposed group of friends is the long list of terrible side effects Xarelto has caused in thousands of users.
Physicians have blamed Xarelto for hundreds of deaths. In thousands of other reported cases, taking Xarelto resulted in:
- Muscle pain
- Burning, itching, and numbness
- Internal bleeding
- Coughing up blood
- Vomiting of blood or materials resembling coffee grounds
- Nose bleeds
- Difficulty with breathing or swallowing
- Bloody stools or urine
Big Pharma Always Wins
Despite the thousands of lawsuits piling up for Xarelto, the companies making and distributing it continue to thrive. One explanation is Xarelto’s sophisticated marketing campaign based around big name celebrity endorsements. However, the continued success can also be related to Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ downplaying the risks of Xarelto. In terms of the extensive risks associated with Xarelto, little is mentioned in the star-studded TV commercials featuring Bosh. What’s worse, though, is the fact that Bayer even designed and funded a major study that concluded Xarelto was safe. This study was cited by the FDA when the agency approved Xarelto in 2011.
The story of Xarelto is one that has become all too common: greedy pharmaceutical companies prioritize quickly seizing profits over developing the safest, most effective drug possible. Such greedy and irresponsible behavior has become characteristic of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. Though these companies can help sick people, their narrow focus on financial gains also results in the death and injury of countless Americans. While all is sunny on the golf course for Chris Bosh and his 3 golf partners, the consequences in the real world could be fatal.
In fact, the potential consequences are so real and so fatal that Bosh himself was advised by his own medical team to sit out the Miami Heat’s NBA playoff run this season. Why? Because the risk of getting an in-game injury and subsequently bleeding out-of-control are just far too great.
Such is the risk one incurs while using a blood thinner as potentially dangerous as Xarelto.