Expired Pfizer contraceptives recalled after supply chain fumble

In a supply chain foul-up, a Canadian drug distributor began recalling a small quantity of Pfizer ($PFE) birth control pills this week after it accidentally shipped out expired product. Pfizer credited the company with quick action, but it is the kind of issue that in the past has led to litigation against drugmakers over unwanted pregnancies.

Shoppers Drug Mart acknowledged on Monday that about 100 women in Western Canada had gotten expired Alesse 21 pills between March 16 and April 1, Canadian Press reported. The company urged women around Alberta to check the expiration dates on any birth control pills they had recently received. They were told to return any expired pills for a replacement, and to consult a physician if they had taken any of them.

Pfizer, in a statement on Tuesday, said the drugstore chain had "quickly" informed the company after realizing the mistake and "took immediate corrective measures," Canadian Press said.

Pfizer has been through this routine before. In 2012, the drugmaker recalled 1 million packets, 14 batches of Lo/Ovral-28 pills and 14 batches of its generic counterparts, norgestrel and ethinyl estradiol tablets. In that case, some packets were found with too many active tablets while others had too few, and so the active and inert pills were out of order. The pills were manufactured and packaged by Pfizer but marketed under the Akrimax Pharmaceuticals brand. The company said it believed that only 30 packs were mispackaged, but it withdrew an additional 999,970 just to be safe.

In 2013, Canadian generics maker Apotex was sued for $800 million by 45 women who claimed they got pregnant after a packaging problem led to there being too many inactive pills in the dispensers of Alysena 28 birth control pills.

- here's the Canadian Press story