What Happens When a Drug is Recalled?

You’ve probably seen commercials flash on your screen late at night bellowing a call to action against a certain prescription drug- an announcement that a drug is being recalled. Based off of the standard definition of the word ‘recalled’, it is easy to infer that the company that issued the drug is now taking it back. But, how exactly does this process happen and what do they do with the drug once it is recalled and off the market?

What It Means for a Drug to Be Recalled

A drug recall is a national (or even international) is the act of taking back a prescription drug that is deemed as no longer suitable for human consumptions, whether that be due to safety or efficacy issues. Essentially, this means that the drug manufacturer wants any person or pharmacy in possession of a defective drug to stop distribution and consumption of the drug and immediately dispose of it or turn it in.

There are several different classes of recalls ranging from Class I to Class III recalls. Class I recalls are the most serious and most likely to produce adverse health effects if consumed, whereas Class III recalls are the least severe because the FDA has determined that the drug is not likely to produce adverse health effects.

Locating and Removing the Drug

Once a drug is recalled, it is difficult to initiate the actual process of finding and collecting the drug. It all starts with getting the word out to consumers to let them know that a specific batch or entire inventory of a drug has a defect that needs to be corrected- locating the drug using this method is actually the easy part. The manufacturer and FDA often contact consumers directly and some manufacturers even take out advertisements announcing the recall.

The more challenging part comes when regulators try to regulate a pharmacy’s distribution of said drug. This process can be rather complicated, and it is now regulated by the FDA’s drug supply chain security act. This act makes use of technological advances to implement an electronic inventory system that aims to prevent the distribution of less-than-perfect prescription drugs.

Proper Disposal

After the general population and pharmacies are notified that a drug has been recalled, there are a few different ways to properly dispose of the drug. If you are a part of the general population, the best thing you can do is return the recalled drug to whatever pharmacy, clinic, or hospital you received it from. If, for some reason, you cannot do so the next best step is to look on the FDA’s website to see if the drug is able to be flushed down the toilet. If this is not allowed, the next step would be to dispose of the drug in the garbage. However, be sure that you tie and secure the trash bag and immediately bring it out to the dumpster or garbage chute- the goal is to minimize the opportunity for someone else to find and consume the recalled drug. As for pharmacies, they have color-coded waste bins that denote what kind of hazardous drugs go into each bin.

 

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