Here’s one of those screw-ups whose impact would be significantly dampened if it wasn’t covered up by the drug corps responsible. Users of Alysena-28, by Canadian drug company Apotex, should check their pills’ batch number.
Apotex says one batch of the Alysena-28 may contain two weeks of placebo sugar pills instead of one, adding the error can reduce the effectiveness of the pills and raises the possibility of unplanned pregnancy.
The company informed wholesalers and retailers Friday, but did not inform women who are taking the pill.
The code on the recalled packages is LF01899A. The bad packages were distributed in all provinces except Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Emily Costello, a university student in Halifax who uses the drug, said she panicked when she heard about the recall.
“It’s unbelievable to me that they didn’t do a public recall right away,” she said. “What were the reasons that they had to go through the retail first?”
In Halifax, volunteers at the the Sexual Health Centre spent the afternoon contacting 120 clients who might be taking the recalled drug.
What I don’t get about this is, Alysena is — according to every photo I can find immediately, and even the one on the CBC article linked — supposed to be color-coded pink for the ones with hormones, and white for the placebo pills. In searching for the “-28″ variety specifically, though, I happened upon one picture of a totally different type of birth control pill, which has two weeks of pink and two weeks of white, which got me to thinking. This visual difference should hopefully have been a clue to any regular users, if not newbies who actually read the insert that came with their first pack. This should hopefully have caused enough ruckus when people actually asked about it.
So, I have to wonder — did the screw-up actually involve two rows of white pills? If it did, causing questions, and the company did not act accordingly — remember, Health Canada first issued a voluntary recall then upgraded it shortly thereafter, but Apotex was damningly silent, save for a statement that the drug might be “less effective” after missing seven days in a row — then this is a gross breach of public trust. And if it’s a row of pink placebos, how did they even get made? Neither question’s answers are immediately forthcoming, and the way the company has reacted is less than reassuring. An error can be forgiven. A cover-up, not so much.
Update: From Stacy McGill in the comments:
I have a pack of the recalled ones that I didn’t use yet, and there are three rows of pink pills and one of white- just like every pack.
So that answers that. As long as this is the case for all the pills, the placebo pills are not visually different, meaning something went very wrong in the manufacturing. And also meaning, because there was no visual cue to mitigate the problem, this could affect a very large number of people.
(Also: before any lookie-loos wander by, wondering what makes this so important, remember that the right to choose when you get pregnant is a human right and without that right, women don’t have the same level of bodily autonomy as men. It’s part of why women are societally disadvantaged thanks to the patriarchal system our culture is so damned steeped in today.)