It seems that every day we turn on the TV, read the paper or get on social media, that there is a new story discussing a recall on food or prescription medication. While many of the recalls may not directly affect you, it is still important to stay informed. On the contrary, if you think you may have been affected by a recall, it is important to stay calm and learn the facts first.
What is a Drug/Food Recall?
A drug recall is the most effective way to remove over the counter medications and prescription drugs from the market. Pharmaceutical companies can voluntarily initiate drug recalls or do so at the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA supervises recalls and stratifies them based on the degree of potential consumer hazard.
According to the FDA, recalls are classified as follows:
- Class I: A dangerous or defective product that could cause serious health problems or death.
- Class II: A product that might cause a temporary health problem, or pose slight threat of a serious nature.
- Class III: A products that is unlikely to cause any adverse health reaction, but that violates FDA labeling or manufacturing laws.
The FDA provides information even on pet food recalls such as recently with dry dog food having high levels of vitamin D.
There have been several food and medication recalls within the last year. While many of them are not often publicized, the FDA website has a list of every food and medication recall within the last year, including the reason for the recall.
Major Recalls From 2018
On November 26, 2018, the CDC issued a statement recalling romaine lettuce due to E. Coli contamination seen in many of the harvests. Most batches that were affected were grown in central coasting regions of northern and central California. It is important to check the label before purchasing lettuce, but note that if your lettuce was harvested elsewhere, it is NOT affected by the outbreak and is safe to eat!
On July 13, 2018, the FDA issued a recall of certain batches of valsartan due to elevated levels of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is presumed to be a carcinogen based off of animal studies. Valsartan is a common medication used to treat elevated blood pressure and heart failure. Initially, the recall was for particular batches, however over the last few months, several different pharmaceutical companies have issued widespread voluntary recalls of the drug alone and valsartan-containing medications.
There are several combination medications that include common medications like hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) and other blood pressure medications that are also on the lists of recalls. Independently, medications like HCTZ are safe to take and are not affected by the recall. If you are on Valsartan, or valsartan-containing medications, it is important to speak with your doctor or local pharmacist PRIOR to discontinuing your medication, as your batch may not be affected by the recall.
On November 2, 2018, the FDA issued recalls on OrthoNovum 1/35 and OrthoNovum 7/7/7 due to insufficient instructions on the Verdiate dispenser. The risks associated with taking this medication improperly include breakthrough bleeding as well as unintended pregnancy. The recall affected three specific batches only, and other ORTHO branded contraception was not affected by the recall. This recall is different than the warning from 2006 on the Ortho-Evra contraceptive patch that was linked to increased risk of blood clots with use.
Many of us consider our pets as part of the family. Caring for pets can be associated with reduced blood pressure. Pet food, pet snacks and pet medicines likewise can be recalled. The most recent recall of pet food was due to some pet food brands being too high in vitamin D levels.
What Do Recalls Mean For Me?
There are numerous reasons to remove drugs or foods from the market. In fact, not all recalls are permanent. Some recalls are only for a certain batch of a particular drug or food, known as a “lot” or “batch” while other recalls require a drug to be taken completely off the market. The media can often be misleading, so it is important to stay well-informed.
- If a recall has been issued for a medication that you are currently taking, talk to your doctor or local pharmacist before stopping your medication.
- You can also visit the FDA website for more detailed information regarding different food and drug recalls.
- Pharmacies and drug stores generally have a return policy for when companies have issued a recall on products, so be sure to check with your pharmacy to see if you are eligible for a return.
Lastly, remember that recalls are common - both with food, medication, over the counter devices like the recent tampon recall, and even some pet food, but it's important to not panic and stay as informed as possible.
Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!
-Dr. Sabrina Sikka and Dr. Taryn Smith