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Tuesday 16 February 2021

Phyllocontin (aminophylline). Pharmaceutical drugs are no longer "banned" when they cause patient harm; they are "discontinued"!

When a pharmaceutical drug has been prescribed for years/decades but then found to be dangerous they were once "banned"; or at least "withdrawn. There have been a very long history of such harmful pharmaceutical drugs ending up in this way, in the dustbin of history. Now, Phyllocontin, a drug routinely used for the treatment of bronchospasm in Asthma and COPD, can be added to this long and ever-growing list. 

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this new ban is that Phyllocontin (aminophylline) has been around since at least 1974, so has presumably been harming patients for some 50 years now. Seemingly it takes this long for conventional medicine to understand the dangers. They are slow learners!

The drug is also known as Euphyllin, Truphylline, and Minomal so these are dangerous too. And although the drug is now banned in the UK it will still be considered 'safe', or safe enough to be prescribed, in other parts of the world. So patient, beware.

Yet the "banning" of a drug is never good publicity for pharmaceutical drug companies, so the first 'progression' in how these drugs were removed from the market was to "withdraw" them before the regulator moved to ban it. Withdrawal could be done without the level of publicity a ban entailed; that is, without patients, some of whom will have been seriously harmed, getting to know there was a problem. Now, the latest banned drug is not withdrawn, it is "discontinued". Drug companies are masters at obfuscation!

This is how MIMS describes this latest pharmaceutical drugs to be (effectively) banned (15 February 2021). The drug might be dangerous but the ban, or withdrawal, will not be imposed until 'remaining supplies' are exhausted. A few more months of patient harm is apparently acceptable. But no new prescription should be made, and in this sentence is some glimmer of the seriousness of the problem with this drug.

        "Patients currently prescribed Phyllocontin will need to be contacted promptly to allow time to plan for treatment reviews and switching. Prescribers should seek support from specialists for patients with unstable asthma, and children should be referred to secondary or tertiary care to decide on further management."

So, what harm does Phyllocontin (aminophylline) do? This is not a secret. The adverse affects are listed here, and no doubt some of them are listed in the Patient Information Leaflet, which probably have gone mostly unread and disposed of in the bin for 50+ years. They include chest pain, irregular heartbeat, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, seizures, disorientation, confusion (dementia?), and much more. Presumably so much more the drug companies could no longer protect the drug from being banned. So it has been quietly 'discontinued'.

But never fear. Doctors will now be expected to 'review' all their patients on this drug in order to ensure there is "an up-to-date plan" in place, and an alternative drug has been suggested. This is theophylline, Uniphyllin or Continus. So presumably these are safer drugs that do less harm to patients. Well, sadly not. The adverse affects of theophylline are listed here. And if you want to spend more time than I have in trying to spot any difference between the side effects of theophylline and phyllocontin, please do so?

It would seem that, as far as the patient is concerned
 it is out of the frying pan right into the fire!