What’s Next?

FDA takes months to notify vets about drug recall
By JoAnna Lou, January 2010

Pet food recalls have been all too common in recent years, causing controversy with bad communication and lack of precedent. Unfortunately, this danger isn’t limited to the food industry.

Last July, the FDA shut down Teva Animal Health’s operations, the largest American producer of generic veterinary medications, after inspections found several manufacturing violations between 2007 and 2009. On September 4, two of Teva’s products were recalled, ketamine hydrochloride (an anesthetic agent used in spay/neuters, teeth clearning, and other everyday procedures) and butorphanol (a pain reducer).

These drugs are given to hundreds of animals each day, making the recall a potentially catastrophic situation. However, the recall notice was sent only to distributors and stated that there was no obligation to notify their customers (veterinarians) about the recall. 

Most veterinarians didn’t find out about the ketamine recall until the end of December, but by then it was too late. On December 21, the FDA finally issued a public recall notice following the questionable deaths of five cats while under undergoing anesthesia with ketamine. 

As if matters weren’t bad enough, a week later the FDA issued a second notice extending the recall to ketamine manufactured by Teva but sold under seven brand names. An article for SF Gate reports that “drugs made by Company A and sold under the label of Company B can legally bear the label ‘Manufactured for Company B,’” making it difficult for veterinarians to know whether a drug was made by Teva.

It’s alarming that it took almost four months to notify veterinarians about the drug recall, not to mention that there still has been no public notice sent about the second drug, butorphanol. There was also no information on the FDA’s Pet Health and Safety Widget. After this recall, how can veterinarians trust the medications that they prescribe? And how can we trust that our veterinarians have the right information? 

Hopefully this situation will prompt action to change the protocol for recalled veterinary drugs, but it only adds to a growing list of potential problems. Tainted pet food, toxic dog toys, unsafe medicine, what’s next?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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