A patient broke the news to me. There is a massive recall of generic drugs made by a single company, Ethex Corp, a subsidiary of KV Pharmaceuticals. The company makes many of the popular generic drugs that I prescribe every day, such as generic extended-release metoprolol.
This is a really big deal, and I’m pretty angry that I had to rely on a patient to tell me. Generic medications have revolutionized the affordability of essential care, and are usually a good thing. Also, insurance companies push them, and hard, offering incentives for their use, and penalties for using branded drugs. Because the U.S. has a pretty good quality-control system, this is usually not a problem. After all, we don’t live in China where some guy can open a little factory and start cranking out bogus pills. Of course, KV and Ethex can have their factories anywhere they wish, and who knows what happens there?
A news search on the web brings up mostly hits from law firms looking to file dubious suits on behalf of “victims”, but they’ve got it wrong. Patients aren’t victims because they have headaches and tummy cramps—none of these symptoms are likely to have anything to do with these poorly manufactured drugs. We are all victims of a lousy system that allows crappy drugs to sneak into an otherwise very good supply of generic medications. We are victims because of the inconvenience caused. Thankfully, there isn’t likely to much in the way of injury, but who knows?
And that’s the problem. If I have to wait for a patient to give me the information, we have a big, huge, horrible problem here. Who knows what’s going on with our drug quality control? Not me, and I’m a doctor.