Bendectin: The drug that can t make up its mind

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In the "nothing new under the sun" department, Bendectin - now called Diclegis - a drug that was long ago used to treat morning sickness, is going back on pharmacy shelves after a 30 year absence.

Bendictin has a long and interesting history. After being used since 1956, Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals voluntarily withdrew the drug in the 1980s over concerns that it might cause birth defects. The concerns, in fact, turned out to be baseless, although this did little to stop the inevitable (and numerous) lawsuits claiming otherwise.

ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom notes that the entire story of Bendectin borders on insanity. He says, "There is just about nothing that makes sense when examining the history of this drug. First, the active drug is doxylamine an antihistamine with the same active ingredient found in the over the counter sleep aid Unisom, which is not an especially good antihistamine or sleep aid."

He adds, "Then the drug was taken off the market for no good reason and is now returning despite the availability of far more effective anti-nausea drugs, such as Zofran (ondansetron), which is both safe and highly effective for treating nausea and vomiting arising from many conditions (especially chemo the reason drug was invented). And now it's coming back, which makes about as much sense as removing itin the first place."

Diclegis also contains vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) in addition to the doxylamine, which probably does neither harm, nor good.

Dr. Bloom adds, "I just don't get it. Between the limited efficacy of the drug, and the fact that you can buy it over the counter anyhow, I'm not sure why anyone would want to bring this to market."