What to do if your medication is recalled

Shot of an elderly woman looking at products in a pharmacy

We take prescription and over-the-counter medications to get better or avoid getting sick. We know drug side effects can make us feel ill. But we don’t imagine that medications can contain toxic impurities. Yet, it happens. Recently, for example, dozens of prescription blood pressure pills (angiotensin-receptor blockers, or ARBs) containing trace amounts of potentially cancer-causing compounds were recalled.

Recalls happen frequently. Sometimes, the FDA finds the manufacturing process to be defective. Other times, a dangerous side effect that was initially not apparent becomes clear later. “Some medication recalls are for problems that are not very serious, but the products have to be recalled nonetheless,” says Joanne Doyle Petrongolo, a pharmacist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

What should you do if one of your medications is recalled?

Issuing a recall

Recalls are issued by a drug maker (the FDA does not have the authority to mandate drug recalls). However, the FDA can ask the drug maker to recall a drug, and that request usually is honored.

The company recalling the medication is then responsible for notifying its customers, such as pharmacies. When the recall involves a product that has been widely distributed or poses a serious health hazard, drug makers may also issue press releases to the media.

The FDA posts all recalls weekly in the FDA Enforcement Report (www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/ires). Sometimes the FDA also alerts the news media to help spread the word about potential dangers. The FDA also oversees the recall, monitoring whether the product has been removed, destroyed, or corrected.

What happens next?

A recall triggers an investigation process at pharmacies.

“When medications are recalled, the manufacturer, lot number, and expiration date are reported in the recall. The pharmacies can see if that particular medication was actually dispensed from the pharmacy. If it was, the pharmacy would then contact patients, either by letter or phone call,” Doyle Petrongolo says.

Your own sleuthing

You may hear about a drug recall before your pharmacy is able to contact you. In that case, you can take several steps to find out more information, such as

  • calling your pharmacy
  • visiting the FDA drug recall website
  • visiting the drug manufacturer’s website
  • reading or watching the news.

Keep in mind that the recall might not affect the pills that you have. Just because one batch of drugs has been recalled, it doesn’t mean all other batches of the medication are affected. Your pills may be from a batch or brand that was not recalled.

Verify whether your medication has been affected by looking at the manufacturer, lot number, and expiration date. This information is listed on the packaging of nonprescription medications; however, the information isn’t typically listed on prescription medication packaging. You will likely have to call your pharmacy for that.

When your medication is recalled

It might be okay to stop taking a recalled medication if it’s an over-the-counter drug such as an allergy, headache, cold, or sleep remedy that’s meant only to relieve occasional symptoms. However, it’s important not to stop taking medications you take daily until you have discussed it with someone in your doctor’s office or your pharmacy.

In some cases, stopping a medication abruptly can actually cause a rebound effect — the return of symptoms that are sometimes worse than the ones you experienced prior to taking a medication.

For example, you can suffer a rebound effect if you suddenly quit taking a proton-pump inhibitor, such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) or omeprazole (Prilosec), used to reduce acid reflux and heartburn.

In other cases, stopping a medication abruptly can be life-threatening. For example, it is generally unwise to stop taking medications to treat high blood pressure or other heart problems without first consulting your doctor.

Calling your pharmacist is a good first step, advises Doyle Petrongolo. “The pharmacy may be able to get the same medication from a different drug company. If there are no other manufacturers available, either the patient or pharmacy can contact the doctor to switch to another medication,” she says.

If you change to a different drug

“It may take a couple of tries to find the right substitute medication,” says Dr. Suzanne Salamon, associate chief of gerontology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Make sure you keep track of when you switch medications, and note and report any symptoms that develop, like a rash, so we’ll know if the new drug caused it.”

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV

Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14  

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8 NIV

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14 NIV

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13  NIV

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16 NIV

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2 NIV

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