Pharmacists are often asked about the difference between drug recalls and drug withdrawals. For a health care professional, the difference is significant. To a member of the public, it may be confusing. To the media, both can be the source of a story.
The main difference between drug recalls and withdrawals involves the degree of risk to patients and who initiates the notice.
Manufacturers initiate drug withdrawals.
Recalls are initiated by Health Canada and involve varying degrees of risk to patient safety.
When we look at the difference between a withdrawal and a recall, it is clear that a wide range of potential issues and responses can result.
Consumers will have questions for pharmacists, including
To answer these questions, the pharmacist needs information regarding the problem with the medication and any processes that should be followed. The medication manufacturer will provide pharmacists with information regarding the recall or withdrawal. As well, a toll-free number may be available for patients to call. Consumers receive direct and concrete information on how to deal with their medication.
A withdrawal or recall usually involves press coverage. Bad news and dramatic negative commentaries sell newspapers and lead television broadcasts. Many people believe everything that they hear, and expect the worst from drug manufacturers. A lack of concrete information and sensationalist reporting can create many questions and concerns for the public.
To deal with patient concerns and relieve stress on pharmacy staff, almost every pharmacy has a process for handling high-risk drug recalls. Most pharmacies search their files to identify patients who have received the recalled medication in the past 100 to 150 days. Patients are phoned to advise of the recall and to suggest that they should contact their doctor. Many pharmacies offer the patient a refund on the remaining medication.
Currently, the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores is arranging to have a knowledgeable third party evaluate the severity of medication recalls. Pharmacies will receive appropriate information from this source and pass it on to the consumer.
Consumers are truly affected by the recall. Now, a useful medication is no longer available. This may create many concerns. It is important to to discuss concerns with your doctor and pharmacist.
A drug recall can be difficult for all involved. Patients, pharmacists, manufacturers, and the health care system all face challenges for different reasons.
In spite of enormous efforts made by government agencies and drug development watchdogs, recalls will always happen. We all want effective drugs that can fight disease with little or no risk to the patient. The reality is that all drugs have some level of risk associated with them. The more complex the disease or therapy, the higher the potential risk. No magic bullet can solve this problem. Still, pharmaceutical companies, Health Canada, physicians, pharmacists and other health care professionals all do their utmost to protect the health and safety of Canadians.