Another reason to stay healthy

You might want to take a close look at some of the pills in your medicine cabinet. Michael Melia’s story, “Tainted Pills Hit the U.S. Mainland,” from the Associated Press is a pretty disturbing look at the pharmaceuticals produced in Puerto Rico, where many of the drugs sold in the U.S. are made. Melia’s review of Food and Drug Administration records found dozens of examples of drugs that were tainted or processed in less than sterile conditions.

From Melia’s report:

The FDA issued a warning letter to Wyeth in May 2006, after consumers reported finding machinery pins inside bottles of Effexor, a leading depression treatment, and the heartburn drug Protonix. The letter expressed concern that the plant was not “able to detect that the affected equipment was missing some of its parts.” The Madison, N.J.-based company faulted mistakes by workers who packaged the drugs.

In another case cited in a June 2006 FDA inspection report, a plant owned by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries exported drugs — including the diabetes treatment Metformin — even though they were known to contain small amounts of metal particles. The company had also received at least six consumer complaints of dark residue inside bottles or foreign material embedded in tablets, according to the report.

For it’s part, the FDA says, “no biggie” what’s happening in Puerto Rico is pretty much par for the course in all pharma plants, including the ones on the mainland. That’s a real confidence booster.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, is quoted in the story.

“People would be shocked to find this whole variety of contamination,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe of the Washington watchdog group Public Citizen. “The common denominator of all these is there’s really poor quality control.”