Pfizer announced yesterday that it is recalling 1 million packages of its Lo/Ovral-28 tablets and generic Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol tablets, because some of the birth control tablets may be out of sequence, or there may be more of the active pills in some packages and more inactive pills in other packages.
Pfizer said in the FDA recall notice:
These tablets were manufactured and packaged by Pfizer Inc., commercialized by Akrimax Rx Products and labeled under the Akrimax Pharmaceuticals brand. This product is distributed to warehouses, clinics and retail pharmacies nationwide.
The Associated Press reported that the recalled packets have expiration dates that range from July 31, 2013 to March 31, 2014.
"It's concerning -- I just hope there's not too much of a fallout from this," Dr. Adam Griffin, an assistant professor in the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told HuffPost.
"Missed pills come up often, but it's usually because of operator error on the part of the patient," Griffin added. This time it's on the part of the company.
In the birth control packets affected by the recall, there are 21 days worth of active pills (which have hormones in them that prevent pregnancy) and seven days of inert pills (which don't contain any hormones and are just meant as a placeholder) . Griffin said that the highest risk of pregnancy from the recall would be if the mislabeled pills were in the week right before the seven days of inert pills, or in the week following the seven days of inert pills.
Typically in cases where a woman misses just one pill due to her own forgetfulness, it's not a big concern, Griffin said, and she should just take it as soon as she remembers (even if it means taking two of the pills in one day). But when more than one consecutive pill is missed, "then there's an increased risk of contraceptive failure," he said.
Typically, when unprotected sex occurs, a woman has the option of taking a morning after pill in the couple of days following the sexual activity to minimize risk of pregnancy, Griffin said. But in this case, a woman may not know when the unprotected sex occurred because she wouldn't know which pill in the pack was mislabeled.
So what is a woman to do if she finds out that she's been taking the recalled birth control?
Both Griffin and the FDA advise that the woman contact her doctor right away. The FDA noted that the woman should also return the birth control to the pharmacy.
A woman might also want to take a pregnancy test or a serum pregnancy test to see if she is pregnant. It's important to note that if a woman takes active birth control pills after she is pregnant, it should not affect the health of the baby, he added.
However, the Mayo Clinic notes that a woman should stop taking her birth control pills once she learns that she is pregnant.
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