No Stanford-bound medicine was included in the about 1 million packs of birth control pills voluntarily recalled by drug manufacturer Pfizer on Jan. 31 due to incorrect packaging, said a Stanford health administrator. While Vaden Health Center at Stanford does not carry any of the affected medication, campus Peer Health Educators (PHE) have been briefed on how to handle the recall, wrote Robyn Tepper, director of medical services at Vaden, in an email to The Daily.
Brands affected by the recall include Lo/Ovral-28 and generic norgestrel/ethinyl estradiol pills. Tepper said students who obtain their birth control pills off-campus should check with their pharmacies to determine if their prescriptions contained the recalled lot numbers, which can be found online.
Late last year, a customer complaint prompted Pfizer to conduct an investigation on the packaging of certain brands of birth control pills. The company concluded that an estimated 30 packs might contain the incorrect number of active or inactive pills.
“Should we identify even one package that does not meet our … standards, we voluntarily recall the entire lot,” a Pfizer press release stated. “Therefore, we have voluntarily recalled the 28 lots — which is approximately 1 million packs — to ensure that any possibly impacted product is removed from pharmacy shelves — and women who use the product are alerted.”
The affected packs typically come with 21 white birth control pills with active ingredients and seven pink pills that are inert.
Due to a packaging error, there may be too many or too few active pills in the recalled packs.
“The main thing we’ve been told is, ‘Don’t scare residents because it’s not life or death,’” West Lagunita PHE Cassie Montoya ’13 said. “[Students] just might not be completely protected.”
Montoya noted that because of the color distinction between the active and inactive pills, “If you’ve been taking birth control for awhile, then you’d know that there’s a mix-up.”
According to the Pfizer press release, “As a result of this packaging error, the daily regimen for these oral contraceptives may be incorrect and could leave women without adequate contraception and at risk for unintended pregnancy.”
Grace Ann Arnold, director of global media relations for Pfizer, downplayed the potential risk of the mix-up in an email to The Daily.
“In three packages out of more than 200,000 packages inspected by Pfizer, a single inactive placebo pill was inadvertently replaced with an active pill,” Arnold said. “This error, even if undetected, creates no increased chance of pregnancy and little likelihood of other adverse health effects for the patient.”
Arnold added that in two other instances, out of over 200,000 packages inspected, only one of the missing pills was an active one. Missing one day of an active pill, she noted, only slightly increases the risk of pregnancy.
“In no instance was more than a single pill found to be out of place, and in no instance were the placebo or active pills tainted in any way,” Arnold said.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Birth Control Guide, even properly packaged pills may not be 100 percent effective: five out of 100 women who use oral contraceptives may still get pregnant.