Medication Recalls: What to do

How to handle prescriptions recalled by the FDA

Pharmacy shelf

Recently, several prescription medications — particularly ARBs, a type of medication commonly taken for high blood pressure or heart failure — have been recalled by the FDA. If you’re concerned that your medication may be on the recall list, here’s what you need to know:

DO NOT stop taking your medication. The FDA advises that you continue taking your medication as directed while you investigate whether your specific medicine is part of the recall.

Not every ARB has been recalled. Only three ARBs have been recalled: valsartan, irbesartan and losartan. For each of these, there are multiple lot numbers, manufacturers and generic versions, only a few of which contained the impurities that spurred the recall. So even if you are taking valsartan, irbesartan or losartan, it’s very likely that your brand or lot number is not part of the recall and is perfectly fine. You can check your lot number (on the pill bottle) against the FDA recall list at http://bit.ly/FDA_recalls_alerts. Enter the drug name in the search window, then click on the brand name and scroll down to see all lot numbers that were recalled.

Call the pharmacy that dispensed your medication. To confirm whether or not your medication was recalled, contact the pharmacy that filled your prescription. They have records of the brand, manufacturer, national drug code (NDC) and lot number that you received, and can confirm whether or not your lot was recalled. (Since The Portland Clinic pharmacists don’t dispense medication, we don’t have access to these details.)

If your medication has been recalled, have your pharmacy replace it. In most cases, your pharmacy should be able to replace the recalled version of your medication with a brand or lot that isn’t on the recall list.

If no equivalent replacement is available, call The Portland Clinic to adjust your prescription. There are many medications in the ARB class that haven’t been recalled, and we can consider switching your prescription to one of these. Two common ones, candesartan and olmesartan, for example, are widely available and have had no recalls. These are similar in effectiveness and side-effect profile to the recalled drugs, and can be used as replacements. To make sure that your prescription is converted to a similar medication and dosage, talk to your doctor, or ask to speak to one of The Portland Clinic’s pharmacists.

If you’ve been taking a recalled medication, the risks are still low. The FDA says that generally, the health risks associated with the impurities found in the recalled medications are low, even in people who have taken the highest dose of the recalled product for the entire time that it was on the market (which is rare). Still, we certainly understand our patients’ concerns. You can find more information on the FDA’s website: http://bit.ly/FDA_ARB.