Here’s a message you don’t want on your answering machine: Your pharmacy calls to let you know a prescription medication you filled earlier in the month has been recalled by the manufacturer. The message guides you to the pharmacy’s Web site. The Web site, in turn, walks you through the process of determining whether or not you have tainted product. Within minutes, you’ll know if you have a problem or not.
As it turned out, my prescription was fine. About a week later, I got a letter from my prescription benefits provider alerting me to the recall. A letter. Via third-class mail, no less.
Needless to say, this experience freaked me out. The consequences of taking the wrong medication are mind-boggling. What if it is your birth control product that’s malfunctioning? Or your heart or diabetes medication? How long do you want to wait before someone alerts you to the fact? My local pharmacy — which I don’t have to use — called me as soon as they had the information. My prescription service — to which I pay good money to on a monthly basis—dropped a form letter in the mail. Worse, this service is not just some anonymous insurance processor — this is a mail-order prescription wholesaler that encourages you to buy three months of product at a time to save costs. Using the local pharmacy is only a stop-gap measure if your three-month supply gets hung up in the mail.
It was serendipitous that I was talking with a consultant colleague of mine — Ken Stanvick of supply chain consultancy Design Chain Associates — around the same time as this incident with my prescription recall. Ken alerted me to the fact that a staggering amount of recalls are never publically announced. Tainted meat or produce — or that defective car seat — may make the news. But the vast majority of recalls are never communicated.
I found this out the hard way when two windows in my car — first, the driver’s side and later, the passenger’s side — fell into the door frame and never came back out. It turned out the manufacturer knew about this problem but weighed the risk of this actually happening against the problem and expense of a recall.
The manufacturer fixed the problem for free — after I had to leave the windowless car in an airport parking garage so I didn’t miss my flight. With my husband’s golf clubs in the trunk.
I’m not sure what the law requires regarding recalls — I’ll read up on that and give you some resources — but I do know that I’d rather hear about a potential problem sooner rather than later. A call or an e-mail will go a long way toward goodwill — and professionalism. I’m not sure if I’m going to buy prescriptions month-by-month from now on, but if I do, it will be from the pharmacy that left me a message. In the meantime, my colleague directed me to www.recalls.gov. Check it out.