Modern medicine has come a long way and is effectively capable of some incredible things, saving lives, extending lifespans, and treating all kinds of diseases, disorders, and health issues. We can take medications for almost anything, from heartburn and headaches to colds and more, and we rely on various medications throughout our lives to soothe symptoms and see us through difficult illnesses.
Unfortunately, even though all drugs available by prescription or over-the-counter have to undergo rigorous testing before being released for public consumption, every now and then, risky drugs can slip through the cracks. There have been various cases throughout the history of this happening, leading to millions of people taking drugs that were later revealed to be unsafe or had damaging side effects.
The Zantac case is one of the most recent examples, in which Zantac, also known as ranitidine, was found to contain a human carcinogen known as NDMA and has to be removed from shelves and recalled altogether. But what exactly is a drug recall? Why do these recalls happen, how do they occur, and what should you do when you hear about a recall? Read on to find out all you need to know.
What Is A Drug Recall?
A drug recall is when a prescription or over-the-counter medicine has to be removed from the market. The FDA helps to oversee this process, and there can be various reasons behind a drug recall, which you can find listed below. In some cases, the FDA has to get involved and demand that the product be recalled, but in other cases, it’s actually the makers of the drug that decide to voluntarily recall their product after discovering some kind of issue with it.
Why Do Drug Recalls Happen?
There is a range of potential causes behind a drug recall, and it’s important to note that the reasons aren’t always as scary or worrying as they might seem. Many people panic upon hearing about a drug recall, but there are often cases when drugs get taken off shelves purely due to the fact that they aren’t as useful as first believed or have badly-written instructions. Here are some potential causes:
- Dangerous – There are some cases, such as the Zantac case outlined above, in which drugs may be recalled due to the fact that they are dangerous or pose some kind of risk to human health. Back in 2000, for example, several drugs containing phenylpropanolamine as an ingredient had to be recalled when it was discovered that they could raise one’s risk of having a stroke. These are the most worrying drug recall cases, and it’s important to learn about the risks if you’ve taken some medicine that is later found to be hazardous.
- Packaging Issues – There are some cases in which medicines are taken off shelves because their packaging is unclear or the instructions inside the box have errors that make them hard to read. In these cases, the drug itself is often safe when taken properly, but the packaging errors could mislead people, so need to be rectified before the drug can be sold again. There was even a recent case in which a product was recalled because the packaging looked too much like a drink pouch and could have confused young children.
- Incorrect Function – In some cases, drugs may be recalled because they simply don’t actually do what they claim to do. If you think that you’re taking something to cure a stomach ache, but it actually has no pain-relieving benefits in action, for example, it’s important for this drug to be taken off shelves and either repackaged or modified to actually fulfill its intended function.
- Manufacturing Issues – There are also cases in which drugs may be contaminated or defective due to manufacturing faults or oversights. Just like with other products, issues during the manufacturing process for drugs can arise, and even though every care is typically taken to prevent these issues, there can still be situations when they occur. These errors or oversights can then lead to issues with the drug’s potency or quality.
What Should You Do In The Case Of A Drug Recall?
So, now that you’ve learned a little more about how and why drug recalls actually happen, it’s important to look at what you should actually do if you hear about a drug being recalled after you’ve already taken it, or if you know of a loved one who has taken it. Many people can panic in this situation, but here are some tips and pointers to see you through it:
- Stop Taking The Drug – Obviously, the first course of action when you heard about any drug recalls is to stop taking that drug entirely. Even if you haven’t noticed any issues from taking the drug in the past, it could be causing less noticeable adverse side effects in your body, so should not be taken again. You can either discard the drug safely in your own trash or bring it back to your local pharmacy to return it.
- Let Others Know – When you hear about a drug recall and worry that someone you know might have taken the drug in question, it’s a good idea to give them a call and let them know. They might have already heard about the recall too, but it’s always best to spread the word and raise awareness, just in case.
- Learn More – You can learn about the exact causes of the recall by heading to the official FDA drug recalls page. There, all recalls are listed, along with the reasons for each one, and this information can be very valuable.
- Contact Your Doctor – If you’ve been taking a drug that has been recalled, let your doctor know, especially if you’re experiencing any symptoms. They’ll be able to advise you on the best course of action.
Finding out that a drug you’ve been taking is being recalled can be quite worrying, but there are many cases in which the drug in question may not actually pose any serious risks to your health. Still, it’s always best to stay informed of recent recalls, keep your medicine cabinet updated, and take the right action if a recall happens.