Pfizer has another recall tied to smelly drugs

Smelly pills have led to another recall by Pfizer ($PFE) and this time a drug shortage. Last year Pfizer  recalled more than 650,000 bottles of Advil gel tabs from stores because they had a strong odor. This time it's Pfizer subsidiary King Pharmaceuticals recalling 52,000 bottles of its thyroid pill Levoxyl because of a bad odor.

The company told The Wall Street Journal that it started hearing complaints in February and tracked the problem to the oxygen-absorbing canisters in 100-count and 1,000-count bottles. The company says in a Dear Doctor letter that the "odor is not likely to cause any adverse health consequences. However, the company discussed this situation with the FDA and decided, out of an abundance of caution, to voluntarily recall all strengths of LEVOXYL."

While the odor won't hurt patients, it may mean they won't be able to get refills of their medication. The drug has been added to the FDA shortages list, and Pfizer says not to expect supplies back on the market until 2014. There are alternatives, including generics, and Pfizer suggests consumers check with their doctor. "We are working with the FDA to resolve the issue as quickly as possible," spokeswoman Lauren Starr told the WSJ.

Recalls tied to smelly drugs are not unusual. Last month Glenmark Pharmaceuticals pulled 600,000 bottles of its generic version of the Merck ($MRK) blockbuster asthma med, Singulair off of shelves because they smelled fishy. Indian generics maker Dr. Reddy's Laboratories last year recalled about 50,000 bottles of citalopram, the generic of Forest Laboratories' ($FRX) antidepressant, Celexa, because consumers complained they smelled of garlic. Unusual odors was one of a myriad of problems tied to recalls of over-the-counter products produced at a Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) plant a couple of years ago. 

- here's the Dear Doctor letter (PDF)
- here's the WSJ story (sub. req.)

Related Atricles:
Glenmark's Singulair generic recalled for fishy smell
J&J unit recalls more OTC products
Pfizer recalled 653,000 bottles of smelly Advil