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Generic recall — check your drugs

Posted by Richard on June 3, 2005

One of my vast army of loyal readers has passed along a news item that may impact you, if you take generic prescription drugs:

WASHINGTON – On May 23, Able Laboratories, a big manufacturer of generic drugs, suddenly ordered one of the largest drug recalls in history — all of its products, probably affecting millions of people.

Four days later, on the 27th, the FDA put out a press release announcing the recall. That was at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, so almost no one noticed.

The recall affects 46 different drugs, including widely-used pain killers and anti-inflammatories. So, if you’re taking any prescription drugs, go to your medicine cabinet and see if any of them are Able Laboratories drugs… Oh, wait. You can’t tell, can you?

Here’s one of the trade-offs of the whole generic drug paradigm. If Goodyear recalls some of its tires, you go check the car and see if the tires say "Goodyear" on the side. If you hear on the news that some DiGiorno frozen pizzas may be contaminated, you smile and relax, knowing you have Freschetta pizzas in your freezer because they were on sale.

But when a generic drug manufacturer issues a recall, how do you know if you’ve got some of that manufacturer’s drugs?

Fortunately for you, there are tiny numbers on the pills or capsules, or maybe on the label, and if you can find the right ones, the FDA has a page where you can look them up:

Pills were recalled according to the number imprinted on the drug itself; liquid drugs were recalled by lot number listed on the packaging.  Click here to view the full list on the FDA’s Web site.

That’s a pretty long list, isn’t it? I hope you didn’t find any of your prescriptions on it. I mean I hope none of yours are on the list, not that you screwed up and didn’t find them. My one prescription’s not on the list.

You know, I love saving money, and I understand the logic behind generic drugs. But somehow, when problems like this come up (and they always will), I can’t help but feel a little better when there’s a well-known name brand company — with a reputation it wants to protect and its stock value at stake — promising to make things right.

As opposed to some generic manufacturer I’ve never heard of.

[sigh] Of course, I go for the generic whenever it’s available — it saves me money, and it’s just as good, right? Right?

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