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What Should You Do if Your Medication is Recalled?

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Millions of Americans rely on the use of regular prescription medications to treat chronic conditions. Says the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), approximately 46 percent of the U.S. population used one or more prescription medications in the past month. If you are among those reliant on medication to help you manage such common conditions as high blood pressure or cholesterol, chronic pain, diabetes, or asthma, know the recommended steps to take if you are notified that your medication has been recalled. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalls medications annually as a patient safety measure. Be prepared with a plan so that your care treatment is not detrimentally interrupted if a recall happens to you.

What is a Drug Recall?

A prescription recall is a voluntary action taken by the manufacturer or the FDA at any time to remove a defective drug product from the market.

Why are Drugs Recalled?

While it may inadvertently be an inconvenience for patients, drug recalls are the most effective way to ensure safety and minimize the risk of a complication, dangerous side effects—or in the worst case, death—from the use of a specific medication. Drug manufacturers and the FDA work diligently to ensure that before medications are released to the public that they are tested for possible issues. Post-release, the entities continue to monitor the drugs for complications. If anything unforeseen arises that may put patients at risk, the FDA or the manufacturer may decide to issue a recall. Monitored issues range from drug efficacy and dangers to inadequate or misleading packaging, to hazards identified during the manufacturing process that may have contaminated products.

What Should You Do if Your Prescription is Recalled?

Most recalls are issued out of an abundance of caution due to minor issues. If a prescription medication that you have been taking is recalled, do not panic. Stop taking the medication immediately, and call your doctor or contact a pharmacist and ask for a recommended replacement.

Read the available materials from the FDA or the manufacturer to understand the reason for the recall. If there was an issue with the efficacy of the product, and you have been experiencing possible related side effects, share that information with your doctor.

Safely discard the recalled medication or return it to your pharmacy. Most drugs should not be flushed down the toilet. Instead, mix it with coffee grounds or kitty litter in a bag and then place it in the trash—carefully out of reach of any children or pets.

Moving forward, if you ever notice anything suspicious with a medication—such as a tampered seal, broken packaging, strange smell or odd appearance, contact your pharmacist before taking the drug, even if you have not been informed of a recall.

Recalls of Over-the-Counter Medications

Keep in mind that it is not only prescription medications that may be recalled. Over-the-counter medicines are also closely monitored by the FDA and are subject to recalls. If you own any over-the-counter drugs that are recalled, stop taking them immediately. Return the medication to the store at which you purchased it and ask for a refund. The pharmacist or your doctor can recommend a safe alternative.

If you have any concerns about recalled medications, talk to your doctor, or visit the FDA’s drug recall list.