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Difficulties Tracking Recalled Drugs

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Q. When the recall of Ranbaxy atorvastatin was announced because of glass particles in the pills, I had 30 left of a 90-day supply. The pharmacist said he had no way of tracing the lot number of my prescription. He offered to replace the pills I still had with pills from another supplier of atorvastatin.

I don't understand how manufacturers can track lot numbers of canned goods or cereal, yet consumers have no way of knowing if they have taken pills from recalled lot numbers. Apparently pharmacies are not required to pass the lot number on to the user or record it in their computer system.

A. You have identified a weak link in the prescription drug supply chain. Many states do not require pharmacists to note the lot number on dispensed medication or even keep a record of the original source. If there is a recall, as there was in the case of Ranbaxy's atorvastatin, there is no good way to determine whether dispensed pills are problematic.

It may be possible to request that the lot number be part of the information you get on your prescription, but you would need to make that request when you drop the prescription off or pick it up. It is essentially impossible for the pharmacist to reconstruct it after the fact. It does take the pharmacist extra time and effort to record the lot number, so keep that in mind as you evaluate the speed with which your prescription may be filled.

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It's quite scary that we can be taking recalled prescription medicine & not even be aware there is a problem. Pharmacies should be required to alert anyone in their system who is taking a drug that has been recalled.

What's even worse is when a doctor continues to prescribe a recalled medicine & a pharmacy continues to fill the prescription. This led to my mother's death in 1991 when she was taking a diabetes pill that was ordered to be removed from the market.

A good way to follow up on this is with online resources like RxWiki.com. The Medication pages are rewritten almost immediately, by a pharmacist, as soon as the FDA releases changes. While this issue is a difficult one, it is much easier with up to date online sources.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: DailyMed is another good source, though it uses doctor speak so it can be difficult to read.

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