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What to Do When Your Medication Is Recalled

woman with pill bottles
March 14, 2019

By Frieda Wiley, PharmD, RPh

Hearing that your medication has been recalled can be unsettling. We like to think that our medications are perfect, but the truth is, just like your car, an appliance, or a food item, medications can be made improperly, too. Fortunately, most medication recalls are not life-threatening; even so, every recall should be taken seriously.

How Would I Hear About a Recall?

Pharmacies usually make an effort to notify patients via phone call or text, or they may notify you in person the next time you’re in. But not all pharmacies have the technology or the resources to communicate recalls; and not all states require them to do so. I recommend that you check with your pharmacy to see how they handle recalls. Since pharmacies may not always be able to alert you, it’s wise to keep your eye out for recall alerts on your social media feeds or news reports. And if you really want to be proactive, the FDA keeps a running list of all recalled medications here.   

What Should I Do if My Medication Has Been Recalled?

  • Check your prescription to see if it’s among the batch recalled. Recall alerts will include the specific dose of the medication as well as the lot numbers for the products recalled (this information is also available on the FDA website). The lot number is kind of like a serial number for the medication that helps the manufacturer track batches should any problems arise. You probably won’t find the lot number on your prescription, so you may have to either call or make a trip to your pharmacy to find out whether your medication came from one of the batches in question.
  • Call your pharmacy. If your medication has been recalled, contact your pharmacy as soon as possible. Ask why your medication was recalled, and if needed, ask if they can replace your recalled medication. If you receive your prescriptions by mail order, there should be a service number you can call.  
  • Call your doctor. If your pharmacy cannot immediately replace your medication, contact your doctor to find out whether you should continue taking your recalled medication. Of course, this is especially important if you are taking medications to prevent or manage a life-threatening illness.

Again, most medication recalls are not a cause for alarm, but it never hurts to collect more information. Your pharmacist and doctor will be happy to help you figure out your next steps.

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