May 5, 2010


About three weeks ago Beth went out to the grocery store. We were running low on a few things including some meds for the kids. An hour and two stores later, she texted me asking if we had enough to get the kids through the next few days. She couldn't find any. Anywhere. And she never did. The first thing I did after checking to see if we did in fact have enough to coast a while was to start surfing the web looking for recalls. There were none.

Imagine my shock three weeks later when we saw on CNN that not only the allergy medication Mia is on was recalled but so was nearly every other medication commonly used to treat fevers and sniffles.

I don't think the government is totally responsible or looking after my welfare as well as the health and well-being of my kids. That's my job as an individual and as a parent. And if I was unwilling to take on such duties, I should have thought twice before using my penis. But our government has organizations in place tasked with consumer protection and the safety of the medication we take and give to our children. If they're there, I expect them to do their jobs. But they're not. The FDA had this to say about the recall:

"Our thought was because these over-the-counter products are so widely used and because it hit such vulnerable populations with infants and children, that we really needed to get the word out there to at least give consumers a heads' up before we had all the specifics."

That's admirable but where was the FDA when the products mysteriously disappeared from store shelves? And did the manufacturer think we were all so stupid that we wouldn't notice? What's worse is that while the products were gone from store shelves, they were still sitting in medicine cabinets in millions of homes, dispensed to millions of kids, mine included.

A few weeks ago, I took Mia to the doctor. He recommended all kinds of prescriptions as well as some over the counter medications. Why? He and I shared a simple goal. "Let's keep Mia out of the hospital this summer." She regularly took one of those recalled medications to help do just that. I get that Beth and I have to be our kids' best and biggest advocate. I get that the world isn't orbiting the sun with the sole purpose of making sure my kids are fine and taken care of. And I get that there are kids who don't have food much less medication. But I'll admit to feeling a little betrayed by a company and a system who were in the business of making people better. Especially when the company pulls supply three weeks before disclosing that there's a problem. Especially when they've had to recall similar products four times in the last seven months.

Some of us have kids who've been in the hospital. Some of us have goals for the summer that are as simple and desperate as keep my daughter out of the hospital.

What do you think is the government's role here? Are they doing their job? How about the manufacturers?

(Sorry. I got a little carried away there. Obviously this just pisses me off.)

Posted by Chris at May 5, 2010 6:35 AM

I can absolutely see why that pisses you off! It's really frightening to me when medical products are recalled, because one assumes that means their quality control missed it the first time through. Is the recall the result of some "lucky catch"? Did they finally get enough people complaining of a side effect to investigate?
There's entirely too much money to be made in the pharmaceutical industry, it seems, and greed necessitates the break-neck pace of the machine in both development and production that hinders proper research and responsible testing.

(Um, nope, I don't feel strongly about this either.)

Posted by: Heather at May 5, 2010 7:52 AM

Perhaps the issue is with getting the info out. I heard about the recall last week sometime. Other people are just hearing about it now...

Posted by: Kaz at May 5, 2010 8:40 AM

First, this is the first I've heard of it, which just goes to show that sometimes being completely unplugged from news and the world has some downsides.

Second, WE are the government. It's getting lost a lot lately, but at the same time I can feel that people are getting fed up and want some changes. So here's my take:
The FDA does not get enough money and freedom to do their job properly. Look it up, and you'll see again and again that the FDA ( along with EPA and other departments tasked with keeping us all from eating / drinking poison ) get their hands tied and budgets cut. And why? You can make all kinds of justifications about saving money, etc, but I'd be willing to suspect that you'd see that pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money on lobbying Congress, who ultimately controls which agencies get what money and what power. And I'd also be willing to bet that one small decision after another chipped away at their power.

So we start putting pressure on our Congress people to unwind the weakening of these agencies. And if they get too powerful or too restrictive, then guess what? We can roll it back the other way. That's the beauty of our system.

Best of luck with Mia though.


Posted by: metawizard at May 5, 2010 10:32 AM

I believe in government oversight, regulation and agencies like the FDA. They are still much better than the corporate dungheads who took the old fever reducing medicine, put it on the clearance aisle and suckered me into buying it before the word spread about the recall. That happened at the bullseye store, not Wallyworld. According to the blogosphere, medicine sits in wallyword's warehouses waiting for new packaging. A voluntary recall which will lead to profiteering which will lead to sick kids. I don't think the FDA has done nearly enough but the stores are behaving like criminals. I dumped six bottles of stuff and am now happily dispensing generics to my teething baby. Lucky for us, the boy's asthma is better in the summer so maybe we won't need some of the other meds Mia is seeking.

Posted by: rebecca at May 5, 2010 11:21 AM

Same here, I went to Target, CVS, and Walgreens looking for a particular over-the-counter kids med that keeps my kid from getting crazy sinus infections that never seem to go away. Couldn't find it anywhere. All the pharmacists kept telling me that restocks should be back soon. I looked at them as if they were nuts. Half the damn aisle of kids meds were GONE, not just on short supply, but completely flippin' empty.

It was only this week that we finally found out why, and yeah, we had 3 of the meds on those lists in our house. And we still do not really know why they were recalled.

Posted by: Jen at May 5, 2010 11:22 AM

I got an email about this yesterday, from Parents magazine. We haven't been in the market for OTC stuff, so I hadn't even noticed.

I do think the FDA has a heavy burden, but someone needs to do it. Someone with the resources and authority to carry it out.

I think in this particular case, there isn't much the government could do. It's my understanding that these were basically bad batches and it wasn't so much that people are getting sick, but that the meds aren't as effective as they should be. I don't really know the details.

I do think it sucks that it took them so long to tell us about it. Hello? Containment is so 5 minutes ago. Just give us the info, please.

Posted by: Brooke at May 5, 2010 11:35 AM

As a mom of two allergic/asthmatic boys - like you - I rely on these medications to keep them out of the hospital. As so many of them are expensive, I buy them in bulk whenever they are on sale.

Which means on Sunday, I threw away about $100 of OTC medication.

And on Monday, I had my oldest in to the doctor for a script, since one of the medications he was taking was to control his allergies.

They knew 3 weeks ago something was up - and did't say anything?

So now - kids with weakened immune systems due to allergies/asthma and it being the height of allergy season have been spoon-fed bacteria? And they knew it?

That's awesome.

In a "you really should start preparing yourself for a class-action law suit - because if my kid ends up hospitalized due to THIS?" kinda way.

Because hey - if a grocery store has to put up a warning sign that the floor is wet - and can be sued if someone slips and falls and the sign isn't there - shouldn't the FDA have that same sort of responsibility? Isn't that what my tax dollars are paying for?

Posted by: Mindy at May 5, 2010 2:17 PM

Have you seen this yet?

Posted by: Shelly at May 5, 2010 2:44 PM

Obviously, the government and the manufacturers aren't doing their job. As SOON as they suspected something they should have put the word out. Yes, as parents we want to know what exactly the problem is, but I'd have been happy with a "Hey, we don't know WHAT the issue is, but there IS an issue" statement. Also, I'm kinda pissed off at the stores. Obviously they knew something was off (why else would they be told to pull all the stock?) so why was there no sign posted? It was totally negligent for everyone to wait THREE WEEKS to say something. That's just absurd.

Posted by: js at May 5, 2010 3:48 PM

and how about how i stocked up on it all at the beginning of winter at the height of swineflu paranoia. my conspiracy theory mind wonders if they knew about it then but wanted to wait until after people like me stocked my medicine cabinet with it?! what a racket...

Posted by: kati at May 6, 2010 2:57 AM

Yeah it pisses me off too! My grandniece was sick as a dog after taking one of those so called "safe over the counter drugs"! My nephew is a single dad and he didn't know quite what to do, so my sister called me,and I said "STOP"! She is doing much better now.

Posted by: Maribeth at May 6, 2010 8:34 AM

That would piss me off too!

You pay taxes for organizations like that to make sure the products/ meds are safe.

Why was it recalled? Were the children in real danger?

Posted by: Nadine at May 6, 2010 10:39 AM

You do NOT want to get me started on this topic! I usually post under other URLs, but this time I'm using the one from a blog of mine that deals with exactly this sort of problem...except that the FDA hasn't done a dadgum thing about it yet. No recall, not even a warning. They've left it up to the manufacturers to fix the problem, because as far as the FDA is concerned, zinc is GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe). But when you put it in a product you swallow, like denture cream, it is anything *but* safe. An overdose of zinc like that causes all sorts of problems from anemia to neuropathy, and once these issues get beyond a certain point, they cannot be cured and they *can* kill you. I know. I lost my own mother to the complications of zinc poisoning (and its attendant copper and iron deficiencies). The simple fact is the FDA is in bed with the lobbyists for so many of these industries, they will never come close to adequately policing them.

...climbing down off my soapbox...

So yeah, my best advice is to not trust the FDA, and try to use as many old & proven remedies (herbals, hot & cold compresses & the like) as possible. I realize there are some things which can't be treated this way (Mia's issues are, unfortunately, probably among them), but trying them first before resorting to big pharma & OTC meds rarely does any damage, and is just (IMHO) a lot less scary.

Posted by: Michelle L at May 7, 2010 4:05 PM

Yeah, I found out about this from the friend we visited en route to Chicago who had a bag of Motrin when she picked us up from the airport. I just looked this morning as Dex has a fever and I have 4 bottles that are recalled. FOUR BOTTLES.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at May 12, 2010 4:42 PM