The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

November 29, 2012

On atorvastatin? Talk to physician, pharmacist

Editor and Publisher
John H. Walker

TARBORO — If your doctor has prescribed atorvastatin — generic Lipitor — to help you control your cholesterol and you are concerned that you may be one of the between 3 million and 4 million Americans with the possibility your medication may contain particles of glass, you should check with your pharmacist.

Last Friday, India’s Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals, the world’s 12th-largest manufacturer of generic drugs, issued a somewhat vague recall for an undisclosed amount of atorvastatin in doses of 10-, 20- and 40-milligrams.

The recall includes 41 lots of the drug, nearly all with 90 pills per bottle, but three lots contain 500 pills per bottle. It’s unclear how many bottles are in each lot, but medicine batches typically contain many thousands of pills. The 80-milligram strength tablets are not affected.

Randy Shafer, drug information specialist at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, says the safest course to follow is to contact their physician and their pharmacy.

“With the concern, they should see their physician,” he said. “There are several other drugs in that class. Their doctor can help them decide the best course of action.”

Atorvastatin is the generic name for Lipitor, the most successful drug in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. Sales of Lipitor exceeded more than $130 billion. Lipitor’s patent expired last November, leading to the availability of a generic atorvastatin at a lower price.

Witha recall notice posted on its website and a sheet of lot numbers to check for contamination, consumers are advised to talk with their pharmacist to determine the origin of the atorvastatin used to fill their prescription.

A local market check revealed:

• Bryan Drugs — The pharmacist on duty said she was unsure if Ranbaxy atorvastatin was used or not. “Any time we receive a recall notice, we return the drugs.”

• Rite Aid — Unable to get pharmacist to phone.

• Thorne Drugs — Does not use Ranbaxy as its source for atorvastatin.

• Wal Mart — Unable to get pharmacist to phone.

• Service Drug, Pinetops — According to pharmacist Johnny Hogg, Service was dispensing Ranbaxy atorvastatin when notice of the recall was received. “We ordered from another source before we were able to check the affected lot numbers,” he explained. “None of what we had was on the recall list.”