Tag Archives: Pharmaceutical Safety

Trickle Up Wealth / Poisoning My Health

November 30, 2019

“Urgent Recall” of My Medicine (Re: Potential Carcinogenic Levels)

My pharmacy recently mailed me a letter with the words “URGENT RECALL ENCLOSED” in red, bold italic letters stamped on the envelope.

“Urgent”???

How could it be “urgent” when the letter was dated November 14, 2019, but the postmark on the envelope (.41 cents postage) was November 20, 2019?!

It turned out to be nothing really important. Just a notice that the medicine I have taken twice a day for a half-dozen years to forestall diseases associated with grastroesophagel reflux has had “potential N-Nitrosodimethylanime (NDMA) amounts above levels established by the FDA.” “Affected product started shipping August 2018.” And what is the potential effect of this substance, you might ask. Hmmm, just a “probable human carcinogen.” The letter said that I should stop using the “product” that had been supplied to me and go to my pharmacy for replacement of the unused pills. When I did, I noticed that the replacement pills were a different hue of red.

All this might seem like a minor aggravation in which my only irritation should be the time spent going to the pharmacy and waiting for my pills to be replaced, knowing that it is very unlikely that this would have an effect on my health.

And yet…

And yet the fact remains that about three months ago I began to feel a pain in my throat, intermittent but intense enough to wince at its nagging reiterations. The pain began to move down my throat along my windpipe. I made an appointment to see my primary care physician on Sept. 24th, and he made a formal referral to a specialist, who was too busy to see me until Thursday, October 17th. The ENT avatar said that nothing was wrong and that I shouldn’t worry, but made a follow-up appointment for me on November 21st, at which time he again reassured me that nothing was wrong. I mentioned to him that the pain had been sufficiently intense on Saturday, November 9th, at 4:30 p.m. that I noted it on my kitchen calendar. He felt my throat. “You don’t smoke or drink, do you?” “No.” “Go home. I see people like you all the time. Don’t worry about it.”

Saturday’s mail (11/23), featuring the pharmacy letter, was not opened until the next day, when we got home from a pair of parties for Linda’s family. Perhaps the ENT doctor is correct, and there is nothing to worry about. And yet no one can say that I got this letter and then began conjuring symptoms out of an overreaction.

Those who support the supposedly liberal wing (Sanders and Warren) of the Democratic Party would probably use this instance of alleged sloppy work by Big Pharma as a case in point to urge me to be more enthusiastic about “Medicare for All.” I wish I could say that my confidence in the safety of the medicine I take would be higher if Hillary Clinton has been elected president and the Senate and the House were controlled by her party, but I see no justification for that confidence. I wish I could say that my concerns about the future medicines I will have to take would be alleviated if Sanders or Warren were elected with Democratic majorities to support them.

If I lack confidence that politicians can judiciously control these matters, it’s primarily because only corporations determine the psychological infrastructure of trust. Remember the Russian proverb that President Reagan grew fond of: Doveryai, no proveryai. Trust but verify. For me, it’s more like “Verify the Distrust.” And that’s not hard to do at all. How forthcoming was the letter about how high the levels of NDMA were in the medicine I was taking? Stonewall meets Firewall. The one thing that bothers me the most about this incident is the failure of the parties responsible to state the actual facts of the case. Why did it take so long to make this determination? Was this discovery a result of an annual test? How comprehensive are the tests performed, and how frequently? Above all, what were the scientifically determined figures of excess NDMA in my medicine? It’s the withholding of this information that leads me to conclude: Mistrust verified.

I am certain there are at least a dozen million stories similar to the above that my fellow citizens could tell. Though only a small cluster would be as old as I am, a significant number probably share my vantage point:

Still rentin’, still workin’ —
Still chewin’, still burpin’ —

Trickle up wealth
Poisoning my health