What medications should be banned in 2020?

Published 10 Jan 2020 • Updated 14 Jan 2020 • By Camille Dauvergne

More than 100 medications are more harmful than helpful for patient health! Read on to discover Prescrire magazine and their recommendations concerning medical treatments. Careful though, make sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medical treatments! 

What medications should be banned in 2020?

2020's list of medications to avoid

For the past eight years, Prescrire has published its list of medications "to avoid", due to their disproportionately negative side-effects, their ineffectiveness or even the unnecessary treatment of rather benign pathologies. Conducting an in-depth analysis between 2010 à 2019; Prescrire's team listed 105 medications, of which 92 were commercially available in France, that presented more risks than benefits for patient health, in the clinical indication they're authorised for (France and continental Europe).

How is the balance between benefit and harm determined?

We should first note that all the information gathering in Prescrire was done in an environment that was free from commercial or corporate interests.

Medications are evaluated through thoroughly documented, methodical and verifiable research, including:

  • - Ranking data on medication effectiveness
  • - Comparisons between the medication and other leading treatments used to address an ailment (whether medical or not)
  • - Research on the most pertinent clinical evaluation criteria demonstrating how effective a medication is at improving patient quality of life
  • - An analysis of a medication's documented side-effects, observed either during clinical trials or following release onto the market

What types of side-effects are considered?

The evaluations take into account all of the side-effects reported by patients. The effects are rated by severity, frequency and imputability (how likely it is that the medication is responsible for the side-effect reported).

There are two levels of seriousness:

  • - Serious side-effects include those which can cause patient death or pose a serious risk to patient health, can provoke hospitalisation (or prolongation of hospitalisation), significant handicap or incapacity, long-term impacts on patient health, deformities or birth defects
  • - Non-serious side-effects cause none of the above

Certain rare but serious side-effects may remain undetected during clinical trials only to show up years after the medication has been put on the market. The evaluation of medications takes this unknown factor into account. A side-effect may very well be expected, that is to say, listed on the medication's Product Information Sheet, or unexpected if it's not mentioned there.

Pharmacovigilance is the practice of gathering/detecting, evaluating and alerting the public of side-effects in order to help select the best treatments for patient conditions, decide whether a medication should stay on the market or not, and inform physicians of its potential risks. In the United Kingdom, these actions are  carried out by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

What medications are affected?

The medications on Prescrire's list include:

  • - Active medications: expose patients to disproportionate risks compared to benefits in a given clinical situation
  • - Outdated medications: medications that have already been superseded by newer medications which have a better benefit/risk profile
  • - New medications: recently released medications whose benefit/risk profile is inferior to older and better-known medications
  • - Medications who effectiveness is not proven beyond the placebo effect, and who may provoke potentially serious side-effects
  • - Both over the counter and prescribed medications

What are the principal changes between the 2019 and 2020 list?

Every year, Prescrire updates its list, adding or removing medications. Certain medications have been removed from the 2020 list after they were pulled from the French market, as was the case with Mephenesin or because they've been rated more beneficial than harmful, like Uptravi.

On the other hand, twelve other medications were added to the 2020 "harmful" list:

  • - For their unfavourable benefit to risk profile: Maxilase (alpha-amylase) for sore throats, Tanakan (Gingo Biloba extract) for cognitive issues in elderly patients, Praxilene for intermittent ischemic limpness due to reduced blood flow to the lower limbs, Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium) to treat painful bladder syndrome, Vicks for dry cough, Tilcotil (Tenoxicam) a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and xylometazoline hydrochloride, used to treat nasal congestion.
  • - Because of lead contamination: Actapulgite (attapulgite mormoiron), Smecta (Diosmectite), Rennie Liquo (Hydrotalcite), Bedelix (Montmorillonite beidellitic) and Kaolin, all of which are clay-based medications used to treat digestive issues like diarrhoea.


To learn more, you can take a look at Prescribes list, (link in French). 


This article is for informative purposes only and does not constitute medical advice: Never stop a medical treatment without first consulting with your physician.


The French magazine Prescrire, in print since 1981, is a monthly print and digitally published magazine and an active participant in updating scientific knowledge and training for health-care professionals. Their editorial team, health care professionals for the most part, work independently and in the best interest of patients, publishing content on training, education, information and best practices.

avatar Camille Dauvergne

Author: Camille Dauvergne, Junior Community Manager France

Camille Dauvergne is currently a Junior Community Manager at Carenity. She assists the France Community Manager in animating the platform, easing member navigation of the site and encouraging them to interact.... >> Learn more


robjmckinney • Ambassador
on 24/01/2020
Printed list in French is not exactly helpful to such a conversation as I recognise none of the drugs. Why you did not provide an English list to examine. The French ended their medical publications just in French language as the universal language English was finally accepted by the French some years ago.

on 24/01/2020

Got to agree 100% with the previous reply, it’s not much good to most people in French !!!!!!

on 24/01/2020
Ginco Biloba ??? Can you not still buy it in the shops? I haven't for as long time. Didn't feel it made any real difference to my tiredness. It would have been helpful to have a short summary of why they were being banned "unfavourable benefit" does not really say anything. I know someone who takes Pentosan & who will be extremely unhappy if she is taken off it since it has helped when nothing else did. I do not read French either although if I have the time I suppose there will be a translator somewhere online.

Michael_B • Community manager
on 28/01/2020

@Nyreb1 @robjmckinney‍ 


Yes, it is a pity that there isn't a list in English for readers in the UK and other parts of Europe. As far as I can tell, there's no equivalent to Prescrire in the UK, but if anyone knows of any similar British resources, please let me know and I'll put a note in the article.



Michael_B • Community manager
on 28/01/2020

@the-demi-god Hello,

Yes, you can still buy Ginko Bilboa in the shops, but it appears many people don't realise it can be dangerous because they think of it as a "natural remedy". Just goes to show how important it is to consult a physician before beginning any new treatments.

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