Medical Flops Of The Decade

AI Drugs Let’s caveat this by saying that it’s very early days. Nonetheless, AI companies are discovering that it’s not easy to create drugs. Several respected… Darren Ryding - January 22, 2024

The pharmaceutical and medical industries have had some huge highs and lows over the past few years. Let’s look at everything from major drug failures to huge companies going bankrupt. In the end, it’s the public that suffers when things go wrong because we place our faith in them to heal us.

Some of these stories are notorious because they involve infamous figures like Martin Shkreli. Others show how competitive and immoral these sectors are. Check out these medical flops now because they are shocking examples of how business works in the modern era.


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Compliance Week

Akorn Pharmaceuticals

This was one of the biggest medical flops of the decade because the company went bankrupt. They shut down their U.S. operations in 2023 after years of struggles. The pharmaceutical company attempted to secure a multi-billion dollar bailout but there wasn’t one forthcoming.

Akorn operated out of Illinois and created animal and human health products. Their financial problems began in 2020 when they filed for bankruptcy and they rumbled on. Nobody wanted to buy them so finally they finished operations in 2023. Hundreds of people lost their jobs in a big blow to the state’s economy (via Fierce Pharma).

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Eyewire News


This was one of the most notorious drug failures of recent years. Novartis designed Beovu to help patients with retina damage. However, multiple people filed lawsuits against Novartis because they alleged that they experienced serious side effects. These included vision loss and retinal vasculitis.

Later, Novartis admitted that they knew about several potential side effects but didn’t disclose them. It’s been a financial disaster for the company and one of the medical flops for the decade. Meanwhile, spare a thought for the people who trusted them and experienced eye problems after (via Drug Watch).


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Here’s another major medical scandal that rocked the U.S. Therano was a medical start-up that once had an estimated value of $10 billion. It was emerging as a big player in the age of modern medicine. They claimed to revolutionize lab work through rapid blood tests that required minimum amounts of blood.

It was an incredible development but it was also too good to be true. In 2023, founder Elizabeth Holmes began an 11-year prison sentence after a court convicted her of fraud. Theranos’ special machines didn’t work for most blood tests. Then they misdiagnosed many conditions including diabetes and cancer (via Integrity Line).

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The New York Times

Blue Bell Creameries Outbreak

Usually, it’s not a big deal when drug tests go wrong because they never reach the public. However, food safety is a serious issue that can have fatal effects on a mass scale. The Blue Bell Creameries Outbreak was one of the worst medical flops of the decade. It forced the Texan ice cream company to recall all of its products across the nation.

Lethal bacteria embedded itself in their manufacturing facilities as well as some products. The airborne disease traveled to at least 10 states and hospitalized dozens of people with fatalities. It was terrible for businesses because they faced many lawsuits, affecting their stock market performance (via Food Safety News).

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Verywell Health


Pfizer had a disaster in 2016 when it entered the dermatological market with Eucrisa. The problem was that they didn’t expect the competition to be so strong. They created Eucrisa, an ointment that countered the effects of mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. This affects up to 25 million Americans per year.

But then Sanofi and Regeneron came along with another drug that became the industry leader. Dupixent treated moderate to severe symptoms so it became more popular. Furthermore, the FDA approved it for children as young as 12 months. In the end, Eucrisa was one of the biggest medical flops of the decade (via Medical News Today).

Martin Shkreli Lawsuit

Vyera Pharmaceuticals

Martin Shkreli is one of the most notorious entrepreneurs on the planet. That’s why there was widespread glee when his company, Vyera Pharmaceuticals, filed for bankruptcy in 2023. He notoriously hiked the price of the anti-parasite drug Daparim by 4000% overnight so many people despise him.

Meanwhile, they’ve faced several lawsuits over the years for unethical practices. Shkreli even spent time behind bars and a judge banned him from working in the industry again. It’s safe to say that anything he touches falls apart so we don’t know why anybody wants to work for him (via Fierce Pharma).

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Condit Exhibits


Clovis Oncology gained FDA approval for its cancer drug Rubraca in 2016. However, it never achieved success because it wasn’t the best performer in its class. There were other options like AstraZeneca’s Lynparza that had similar but stronger effects. Rubraca treated ovarian and prostrate cancers after chemotherapy.

In the end, it proved to be one of the medical flops of the decade. That’s because they failed to compete with their rivals to make it a sustainable product. They expected to make over 660 million dollars in 2021 but only made 75 million dollars. This was a disaster because it was such a poor return (via Cancer Research UK).

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AI Drugs

Let’s caveat this by saying that it’s very early days. Nonetheless, AI companies are discovering that it’s not easy to create drugs. Several respected companies shelved attempts to produce AI-designed drugs because of costs or complications. They’ve already become one of the most expensive medical flops of the decade.

Japan’s Sumitomo Pharma abandoned one major project while the UK’s Exscientica binned a potential cancer cure. Experts estimate that major companies accumulated a combined deficit of almost two billion dollars. The signs aren’t promising but there’s time to turn things around (via End Points News).

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Fierce Healthcare

Walgreens’ Spending Spree

We’re still not sure why Walgreens bought They paid almost half a billion dollars for the start-up in 2011 but then they shut it down in 2016. E-traders have struggled to make ends meet over the past decade apart from the obvious big one in Seattle. However, this wasn’t Walgreens’ only dumb purchase.

They offloaded because they couldn’t make money from it either. Walgreens wasted billions on these investments in one of the medical flops of the decade. They remain a powerhouse in the industry but sometimes it’s difficult to know what they’re thinking about (via Retail Dive).

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Fierce Pharma


Amarin believed that they struck gold after they successfully formulated Vascepa and gained approval in 2012. The drug helped patients with high cholesterol but who didn’t respond to statins. They also claimed that it reduced the risk of heart problems. Then the company hired more staff because they thought it was going to be a huge profit generator.

However, they made some bad decisions along the way and lost some business patents. This was a severe blow because Vascepa is Amarin’s only product. A court order meant that other copycat companies and drugs could emerge. Vascepa is still operating but the move forced them to cut their staff again (via


Purdue Pharma

Everybody knows that Oxycontin is one of the most addictive prescription drugs available today. The U.S. has a major opioid crisis and Purdue Pharma is a huge contributor. The company faced massive lawsuits for its role while the powerful Sackler Family also faced individual legal battles.

In 2023 the company went bankrupt in one of the biggest medical flops of the new decade. However, the Sacklers are pursuing a deal that would protect them from further action regarding the opioid crisis. It’s a very messy situation that doesn’t look good for anybody involved (via Reuters).

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There are many online medical services these days but it’s not easy for them to stick or make a profit. SmileDirectClub discovered this the hard way after they accumulated a 900 million dollar debt. Finally, they filed for bankruptcy in 2023 after it became unsustainable.

The company sold clear dental aligners and claimed that they were more effective than braces. However, their bankruptcy left many customers in the lurch and many people lost money. This is one of the risks of online companies because it’s difficult to make them accountable. (via AP News)

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Leyton Property

Australian Clinical Labs

Data breaches are becoming increasingly common across the world. Australian Clinical Labs suffered a severe cyber attack in 2022. Quantum, a hacker group, stole health records and credit card details from ACL. An external investigation discovered that ACL had many systemic failures that enabled the breach.

They exposed an estimated 200 thousand victims because they didn’t have a cybersecurity team. This is shocking in the modern era because they handle very sensitive information. Furthermore, the investigation noted that ACL had profits of 1.5 billion dollars in 2022 but only spent 350 million on cyber-security (via The Guardian).

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Verywell Health


Timing is everything when it comes to making a profit in the pharmaceutical industry. That’s why Steglatro was one of the biggest medical flops of the late 2010s. Merck and Pfizer thought that they were a winner when they collaborated on the Type-2 diabetes drug.

However, they entered a crowded market where there were already popular rivals including Invokana and Jardiance. These drugs also had the added advantage of improving cardiovascular health. Steglatro didn’t offer this positive bonus so it failed to gain traction and it was a costly blunder for its producers. (via S&P Global)

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The New York Times

Mallinckrodt Bankruptcy

Here’s another massive drugmaker that faced a massive lawsuit. They declared bankruptcy but survived to come out the other side after they made a deal with the Delaware court in 2023. The court found that Mallinckrodt knowingly deceived customers into buying very addictive opioids.

They suffered severe damage to their reputation as well as serious financial penalties. Mallinckrodt will pay about one billion dollars in damages to opioid victims. This crisis is rumbling on and many companies are reassessing their part in it because it’s becoming increasingly risky (via Reuters).

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Columbia Medical Association

The Opioid Epidemic

In 2023, a devastating Al Jazeera report showed that the Opioid Epidemic is killing 300 Americans every day. The country has the highest rate of drug overdoses per population in the world. It’s a shocking statistic for a developed country because it shouldn’t be like his. Furthermore, it’s one of the biggest medical flops of the past century.

Fentanyl is one of the biggest causes of death but OxyContin remains one of the most addictive prescription drugs. According to NPR, the crisis peaked in 2022 as federal and state governments failed to react. Meanwhile, it’s costing the nation a reported $1.5 trillion per year (via

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USA Today


It’s crucial to remember that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the biggest profit-makers in the world. The executives want to make money and that’s ultimately what decides if a drug is a success. Intercept Pharmaceuticals gained FDA approval for Ocaliva, a drug that treats a rare liver disease.

However, they also wanted approval to treat fatty liver conditions. This is a far more lucrative area in the U.S. because so many people suffer from obesity. Unfortunately for Intercept, the FDA hasn’t been forthcoming. They fell short of their profit projections by an estimated 700 million dollars in one of the medical flops of the decade. (via Toledo Blade).

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Rite Aid

Sometimes we wonder if Rite Aid has a special department that devotes its time to creating scandals. The company has had its fair share over the past decade before it filed for bankruptcy in 2023. There was a time when they were found guilty of secretly using AI to falsely tag customers as shoplifters.

Then there was their alleged contribution to the opioid crisis that saw them face thousands of lawsuits. It’s been a rough and expensive few years for the drugstore chain. Sources indicate that they lost over one billion dollars over the past decade. That’s why they’re one of the biggest medical flops ever (via Retail Dive).

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PJ&A Hack

An estimated nine million patients discovered that their data was at risk after this notorious hack in 2023. It was PJ&A’s worst nightmare because the company provided transcription services to many medical firms across the nation. This was especially egregious because it included sensitive information like social security numbers and clinical information.

Furthermore, it impacted huge companies like New York State’s largest healthcare system, Northwell Health. This was terrible news for PJ&A and they saw their value drop instantly. The consequences remain to be seen because this was a very recent case. Nonetheless, it was one of the worst medical flops of the past few years (via Tech Crunch).

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The FDA wanted Lartruvo to succeed because the cancer drug signified a breakthrough in the industry. However, in the end, it was too good to be true because it didn’t prolong patients’ lives. That’s why they eventually withdrew their approval for the treatment despite giving it their initial blessing.

It was one of the biggest medical flops of the decade because everything went so smoothly in the beginning. The Eli Lilly drug failed its stage three trials and that was the moment of its downfall. They confidently predicted that it would signify a fresh start for the company but it cost them tens of millions of dollars (via Reuters).

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Dutch News


The European pharmaceutical sector suffered a major blow in 2022 when InnoGenerics went bankrupt. The Dutch giant produced a wide portfolio of drugs for different conditions. These included diabetes, heart problems, and depression amongst many others. However, they endured financial difficulties before they went bust.

Problems ignited in 2019 when its Indian owners attempted to shut it down. They cited a lack of profit but the Dutch government intervened because they wanted to maintain an in-country pharmaceutical drug production. But it was a bottomless pit so they finally gave up up (via Dutch News).

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US Chipotle Outbreak

The Chipotle Outbreak was another major food scandal that traumatized the U.S. It spread E.coli and norovirus across 14 states with at least 60 victims. The majority of them were in Oregon and Washington but there was a nationwide impact. Chipotle temporarily closed many of its restaurants and lost the public’s trust.

It also forced the fast-food chain to reassess its safety practices because this was a major failure. The 2015 incident was one of the medical flops of the decade because it should never have happened. Fast food isn’t healthy but it should be a long-term poison. This was terrible for Chipotle in a competitive market (via X Talks).

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CBS News

HCA Healthcare Hack

Billions of medical customers across the world trust healthcare companies with their sensitive information and data. However, there have been some notorious leaks in recent years. The HCA Healthcare hack went down in 2023 and put the date of at least 11 million patients at risk.

Many customers pushed lawsuits because they felt that the company violated their trust. HCA defended itself saying that the cybersecurity breach could happen to any firm in the modern age. They also claimed that hackers were attempting to extort them by putting the information for sale.(via CBS News)

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Redcliffe Labs


Many people associate mosquitos with malaria but they also spread dengue fever. This tropical disease causes fever and pain and can be fatal. Mexico and the Philippines approved Sanofi’s Dengvaxi in 2015 as they tried to fight the virus. However, Sanofi didn’t disclose that Dengvaxi could lead to more serious cases for those who hadn’t already caught Dengue Fever.

This led to several cases of deceased children in the Philippines and a major scandal. They ended their vaccination program and sued the company. It was one of the worst medical flops of the decade and it costs lives needlessly. Medical companies have a strict responsibility to be honest because they play with people’s lives (via Nature).

Medical Pharma News


It’s never a good sign when the FDA says that the product could lead to death. That’s what Acadia experienced when they released Nuplazid. They were confident that this would be popular because it deals with psychosis, as a side-effect of Parkinson’s Disease. Positively, it didn’t impact how the condition’s other treatments increased dopamine counts.

This was a good thing but the potential risk of dying wasn’t. Meanwhile, the drug showed deficiencies during different stages of testing. This further reduced confidence in Nuplazid because people didn’t trust it. Then COVID came along and impacted the rollout. It was one of the worst medical flops of the past five years (via Medical Pharma News).

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My Vision

Anthem Hack

The Anthem Hack was one of the biggest data security breaches ever. It put 80 million people’s individual at risk and was a devastating situation for the medical insurance company. They had a responsibility to secure this sensitive data but they failed to protect it and they paid the price.

Hackers obtained millions of social security numbers and health identification in one of the worst medical flops ever. Anthem paid a 40 million dollar settlement to government agencies amongst several lawsuits. However, they claimed that it was a criminal attack and beyond their control (via Fierce Healthcare).



Global politics severely impacted China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beijing refused to countenance the use of Western vaccines and instead forced their citizens to use their domestic version. However, the big problem was that Sinovac didn’t produce the same number of protective antibodies.

However, they remained stubborn and stayed shut even after other countries opened to the world. The crisis had a severe impact on the Chinese economy until their citizens finally took to the streets. Sinovac was a huge part of this legislative failure because it was petty and pointless (via Bloomberg).