The Dangers of Black Boxed Prescription Drugs


Even though it’s not a popular topic of discussion, it’s likely that you or someone you know has taken a “black boxed” prescription drug. If that phrase sounds ominous, it should — it refers to a warning in a black box on prescription drug labels that’s reserved for drugs most dangerous to consumers. In this article you’re going to learn how to protect yourself from the life-threatening side effects these drugs carry, and what to do if you’ve been harmed by a black boxed drug.

First off, let’s talk about black boxed drugs more generally. It’s important to note that they don’t fit in any particular class of drugs. There are anti-anxiety black boxed meds like Xanax, anticoagulants like Xarelto, antidepressants like Zoloft and more. So you won’t be able to determine whether you’ve been prescribed a black box drug by the category. You’ll need to read the packaging carefully and identify the literal black box with the warning inside.

Once you’re sure that you’ve been prescribed a black boxed drug, it’s important to have a discussion with your doctor about whether the medication is truly necessary. When you consider the frightening side effects like internal bleeding to death in the case of the above-mentioned drug Xarelto, the drug should be a last resort measure. If there are any lifestyle changes, food or nutritional protocols, or supplements that can have the same positive effect without the risks on the black boxed warning, they would be preferable.

Usually, there are similar drugs within the same class, so if one has a black boxed warning and one doesn’t you can pick the safer option. For example, if you’ve been prescribed Xanax (which carries a black boxed warning) ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can try an anti-anxiety med without such a warning instead. Most prescription drugs have side effects, but if it doesn’t come with the black boxed warning it’s likely to be safer, all things considered.

All of this information can be a bit overwhelming for a patient who’s likely to be already dealing with a chronic condition that required the black boxed drug. is a great resource for more information, and here are some questions you can consider asking your doctor if prescribed such a drug:

  • What are my alternative options if I have a bad reaction to this drug?
  • Are there any interactions with food or medication I should know about?
  • Does your practice allow drug representatives to pitch their products?

This last point is critically important, and I want to expound on it further. Since the medical industry in the U.S. is a for-profit industry, drug manufacturers are economically incentivized to sell as many pills as possible. To maximize their profits, they often send “drug reps” to doctors’ offices touting the benefits of their pills and sometimes neglecting to discuss the downsides. Doctors often get a cut of the profits. So if your doctor’s office allows drug reps, they’re more likely to push drugs on you that might not be necessary compared to an office that disallows this practice.

Hopefully after reading this overview of black boxed drugs, you’re armed with enough information to represent yourself well when prescribed a drug that carries this warning. Don’t get pressured into putting anything into your body that you haven’t thoroughly researched and discussed with your doctor or pharmacist. And always look to natural measures first, with black boxed drug intake being considered a final option.

By Cal Cook

Cal Cook investigates and writes about consumer-focused topics including finance, scams and safety. His passion lies in exposing fraud across all industries to protect consumers.

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