Nitroglycerin for Heart Angina- Do you use an Unapproved Pill?
Have you heard of nitroglycerin? It’s a drug that gets millions of prescriptions from American doctors every year for people who are at risk of heart attack or heart angina. When you get your symptoms, you’re supposed to pick up a pill, and tuck it under your tongue for emergency relief. And now it turns out, that those pills may not have been doing as much good as they should have – because more than half of the generic and other versions of nitroglycerin that have been on the market for years, have not had their effectiveness checked out by the FDA.
This problem only erupted late in March when many physicians happened to independently find that the heart pain and heart angina drugs you get at your local pharmacy are usually completely unapproved brands. No one really knows how many people suffered or died because of this. You might think that “unapproved” doesn’t sound like a huge deal; it’s still nitroglycerin; so what if it wasn’t tested by the FDA? That is exactly how science begins to slip. The absolutely rigorous scientific standards that we have come to depend on and enjoy in our modern existence have come to be taken so for granted, that we’ve forgotten how difficult it was to establish quality in this country in the first place. Unless something is proven down to the last doubt, it should be taken to be an unknown quantity. Ineffectually treated heart angina can actually can actually lead to a heart attack.
The problem is that the FDA has been underfunded for decades, and hasn’t really gotten around the work of approving or rejecting thousands of drug applications. They are finally taking things seriously, and have sent orders to a couple of drugmakers to tell them to stop selling their products. There is just one brand of approved nitroglycerin – it’s kind of expensive, and it is Nitrostat by Pfizer. When you get the symptoms of heart angina, the drug placed under your tongue dissolves very quickly, gets into the blood, and attempts to dilate the coronary artery so that your heart will have an easier time. In a considerable number of heart patients, this action can actually save their lives.
The generic makers have a good argument too. Nitroglycerin is a really old drug – it was around even before the FDA was formed in 1938. Drugmakers feel that they don’t really need to comply with the FDA approval system, if they were on the market long before the FDA was even born. The government says that their argument is wrong and there is no grandfathering clause applicable to heart drugs. Meanwhile, there are lots of unapproved generics still available all over the place. Until stores run out of old stocks, you just have your luck to depend on, getting the right stuff.