Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another Medication Recall - Is Anything Safe?

It may be a blanket statement to say the general public is not exactly trusting pharmaceutical companies these days, but when parents are told of massive children's medications recalls, it's hard not to think in terms of generalizations. Parents don't generally like to give their children medications to begin with, so it's an act of trust when they do - trust in the company that manufactured the drugs. Yet, it wasn't that long ago that parents learned that they shouldn't be giving cough and cold medicine to young children - something they had been assured by the big companies was safe (Cough medicine warning extended to under 6 year olds).

Over the generations, we have come to trust medications, such as antibiotics and chemotherapy, to save our lives. Other medications, such as allergy medications, make our lives easier (and can be life saving), while yet others are life-enhancing medications, like medications for erectile dysfunction or Botox for cosmetic purposes. But as the years go by, how is it that these medications, which we literally trust with our lives, are frequently being found to be more dangerous than we thought or - in the case of the recent recall - not meeting standards and may be harmful?

The latest recall involves children cold, allergy, and fever medicines from McNeil Consumer Healthcare. These include liquid formulations of:

  • Tylenol
  • Motrin
  • Zyrtec
  • Benadryl
You can view the full list here on the McNeil website.

Who, among parents of young children, didn't have at least one of these in their medicine cabinets?

Luckily, the problem was recognized and the company issued the recall notice, but it makes one wonder, how many problems are there with medications that we don't find out about? And how can something like this happen? Haven't the pharmaceutical companies learned anything yet about consumer trust?

Pharmaceutical companies aren't bad guys - they do work that do save lives. But there is something seriously wrong with a system that:

A) makes prices of some medications so expensive that only the very rich can afford them
B) allows medications to go to market and remain on the market despite reports of less than desirable reactions
C) allows medications with quality issues to get into the market

Without the pharmaceutical companies, many of us would not be alive, but that doesn't excuse the problems that seem to be cropping up fairly regularly. We're not talking about a minor lifestyle issue here, we're talking about complicated chemical compositions that affect how we thing, live, breathe, move, and just about anything else.

Have you had any bad experiences with medications?

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