You’ve heard of cars being recalled… even toys and toasters… and this year, lots of romaine lettuce.
It actually happens all the time — for reasons such as wrong dosages or a mix-up of ingredients. Only… we seldom learn about it when it does.
In the latest such recall, however, it’s because a number of blood pressure-lowering drugs were found to be contaminated with a chemical known to cause cancer.
And it’s hit the news big time – probably because it involved one of the most prescribed meds in the U.S. called valsartan — a drug that doctors write an Rx for over 16 million times a year.
But the problem is much bigger than just a one-time slip-up in the production of valsartan. It stems from the fact that the majority of medications prescribed in the U.S. come from faraway places where we have little oversight.
It’s not easy to know for sure whether you have one of these toxic meds in your medicine cabinet — but if you think you might, I’ll tell you what to look for in a minute.
Made in China
This current recall of the generic blood pressure med valsartan was launched overseas at the beginning of the month by the European Medicines Agency, soon followed by countries such as Japan, and Taiwan… then Canada.
Finally, the FDA got involved just last week.
The toxin, or “impurity,” as drugmakers prefer to call it, in these products is a carcinogenic chemical called NDMA that’s used to make things such as rocket fuel and lubricants and known to cause liver and kidney tumors!
The recalled lots are five different generic valsartan products from three drugmakers, Major Pharmaceuticals, Solco Healthcare, and Teva. Novartis, which makes a brand-name version called Diovan, claims that its products aren’t involved in the recall, something the FDA wouldn’t comment on.
Also part of the recall are valsartan drugs that contain a diuretic called “HTCZ.”
We’re being told it got into the medication because of a “change” in the manufacturing process at the Chinese facility where it’s made.
And that vague statement provides a tiny clue as to what’s really going on here.
China supplies drugmakers with almost every kind of pharmaceutical imaginable, from cancer meds to statins to pills to treat depression, and, get this… all of our antibiotics!
But that’s not the only foreign territory that’s pumping drugs of questionable quality across our borders.
As Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Harry Lever told one reporter, “It’s becoming very difficult for me to write prescriptions at all” because so many meds are made in India and China, “you don’t know what’s what.”
Your med could have even come from a Chinese facility that the FDA had previously deemed so dangerous it should be closed up! Since 2013, the agency has given exemptions to eight drug plants in India and China that are literally banned from importing meds into the U.S. because of “quality shortfalls.”
These once-barred facilities have been allowed to send us ready-to-use drugs… as well as the ingredients to manufacture them… all to avoid domestic drug shortages!
Even under the “best” of circumstances, FDA officials whose job it is to inspect these facilities in person often are stonewalled when it comes to getting visas. There’s obviously no such thing as a surprise inspection when it comes to Indian and Chinese drug plants.
Look, I wish I could tell you how to protect yourself from dangerous or contaminated foreign-made drugs.
But unlike most other consumer products – from cell phones to the fruits and veggies in the supermarket — there’s nothing on the label to let you know what a drug’s “country of origin” might be.
And considering the sheer numbers of meds coming in from China and India, I’m positive that many other serious “quality” problems in drug manufacturing slip through the cracks.
Unless you’ve got access to insider information, you may never have a clue when your safety is being compromised by the drugs you’re taking.
The only answer here is to take a good, hard look with your doctor at any Rx meds you’re taking and find out how you can cut back or eliminate them entirely.
The truth of the matter is: Taking prescription drugs has never been more dangerous. And it’s only a matter of time before this whole drug-industry house of cards comes tumbling down, with some very tragic consequences.
“Common heart drug recalled in 22 countries for possible cancer link” Jen Christensen, July 6, 2018, CNN, msn.com