A Drug Recall That Should Frighten Us All About The FDA
(FORBES) Pay attention, as I can’t say this seriously enough. Last week, the FDA took a drug off the market, and the reasons should send shivers of fear down the backs of consumers, investors, generic drug companies – and the FDA.
The FDA announced last week that the 300mg generic version of Wellbutrin XL manufactured by Impax Laboratories and marketed by Teva Pharmaceuticals was being recalled because it did not work. And this wasn’t just a problem with one batch – this is a problem that has been going on with this particular drug for four or five years, and the FDA did everything it could to ignore it.
The FDA apparently approved this drug – and others like it – without testing it. The FDA just assumed if one dosage strength the drug companies submitted for approval works, then the other higher dosages work fine also. With this generic, American consumers became the FDA’s guinea pigs to see if the FDA’s assumption was right. It wasn’t.
In December 2006, the first generic versions of the popular anti-depressant Wellbutrin XL were approved by the FDA. The drug comes in two dosage strengths, 150 milligrams and 300mg. The 300mg dose is generally used for patients with more severe depression and anxiety and patients who don’t respond to the lower dose. The FDA approved generic versions of both dosage strengths from a few generic drug companies: Teva Pharmaceuticals (manufactured by Impax Laboratories and marketed by Teva Pharmaceuticals), Anchen, Actavis, Watson Pharmaceuticals and Mylan Pharmaceuticals. Almost immediately, the FDA started receiving reports from patients that claimed the 300mg dose was being associated with side effects and reduced efficacy.
The People’s Pharmacy, a well-known syndicated radio and newspaper columnist husband and wife team, notified the FDA that hundreds of patients had logged their own complaints of side effects with the then-recently approved generic version of Wellbutrin XL. The FDA brushed off the People’s Pharmacy and others that raised the issue, stating that they had faith that the drugs were equivalent and that perhaps the patients, who had mental disease, were more prone to perceived problems with a change in the medication than others. This was seen by many as essentially telling patients “it’s all in their head.” After several more years and public outcry, the FDA was forced to take action.
What Action Did The FDA Take?
Instead of doing its own study on the drug, the FDA asked the drug maker to conduct a study to determine whether the generic drug was equivalent to the brand. The FDA, in their recent press release, claims that Teva started the trial but later abandoned it because of slow patient enrollment. It was already 2010, several years after knowing there was a problem, the FDA was forced to do its own study.