Caution: CVS Pharmacy Providing Incorrect Medication Ingredients

In my seemingly never ending quest to determine why my son has been having mysterious symptoms of anaphylaxis since last year, I make a point of reading every single label every single time. I have called countless manufacturers and eliminated food after food if there was any possibility of cross-contamination. I also read the label of every single medication that is prescribed to him.

Last week my kiddo's gastroenterologist prescribed a new med to try to contain his symptoms. Unlike the typical pill bottles, this one came in the original packaging. When, as usual, I checked the ingredients on the medication guide, I discovered that it listed lactose monohydrate, a milk sugar. Then I looked at the package itself and discovered that the capsules I had received did NOT actually contain this inactive ingredient.

The pills were generic, but the medication guide that CVS provided was for the brand name medication. It was wrong. The light bulb went off, and I wondered if the ingredient lists that I read diligently every month were for the wrong medications.

Yesterday I went to CVS and discovered that is exactly what has happened every time they fill my son's prescriptions with generic medications. I was right to be concerned. I discovered that one of the generics do contain lactose as an inactive ingredient. I contacted the pharmaceutical company that manufactures it today. The lactose is "bovine sourced". The medication contains cows milk.

CVS's failure to provide the correct medication information has caused me to give my child a pill containing an ingredient to which he has a life threatening allergy. Every single day.

I'm sure there will be more to this story, but for now, please make sure that the pharmacy filling your prescription is providing you with the information for the pills you actually receive, not another version of the medication.

Important Update: I've started a petition on WhiteHouse.gov to direct the Food and Drug Administration to require labeling of all food ingredients in prescription medications. Link to post about it here and direct link to the petition here!


Anonymous said...

If you have a milk allergy, you might actually need them to use an unopened bottle of the pills and a new pill sorter. So many pills have milk that some highly allergic children have reactions due to this cross contamination at the pharmacy.

Melissa said...

This makes me so upset for you, and very concerned for all of us. Wow. Thank you for sharing and I'm so impressed with your diligence and how you figured this out.

Kathryn @ Mamacado said...

Oh my GOODNESS. How upsetting. Thank you for the warning and I'm eager to hear how this turns out with CVS. Where to even start!?

Alisa said...

How frustrating! Anonymous brings up a good point and one that I hadn't thought of prior.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry this happened to you, This happened to my Son when he was younger. My son was going to get scoped by the GI dr. to see if he had E.E. The GI dr. prescribed a liquid form of Prevacid for my son to take. We went on vacation and had to refill the Rx, the CVS pharmacy in FL gave us atablet form of the Prevacid (with Lactose Monohydrate) -- unbeknownst to me ! I asked the Dr. if the tablet was ok, he said it was. But it wasn't -- my son got sick and sicker and his RAST numbers went off the charts. I kept wondering why, when I had been so diligent to not even let him touch something that I thought had milk residue on it. Then when I confronted the Dr. about it, he blamed the Nurse Practioner !!

Anonymous said...

When I tried to get the ingredient list for a medication my daughter was prescribed, the pharmacist at my local CVS said he didn't have time for that. Needless to say I went elsewhere and will never go to CVS for prescriptions again.

WCNickNYC said...

Thank you so much for your investigative efforts and for sharing this!!

Teez said...

lactose is considered an inactive ingredient, therefore, the FDA and other governing bodies do not require pharmacies to check for interactions with those ingredients. So, even if you tell the pharmacy that you are allergic to it, they do not (and won't) check for it in the product they dispense you. I have trained my pharmacists to check for inactive ingredients, especially after landing in hospital because it was missed in one medication. Then there was the month that I had 5 medications, ALL got converted to ones containing lactose. How I didn't die, I'm still not sure.

As to having the wrong information with the medication--I once received the white paper for a completely different medication. I took it back and the girl plunked it on another bottle of medication that I am pretty sure wasn't the right one either.

What I do, however, is look up online, inactive ingredients in the medications I receive. I make sure to check the manufacturer, as each one has been known to have different formulations. And, I ask the pharmacy to alert me if they change manufacturers on me. I also still check every few months to make sure a formulation change has not occurred.

You have to be your own advocate. I happen to have an awesome physician who helps find medications I can take, but not all are willing to take that time.

Anonymous said...

We have had similar issues but with red dye. My son used to be really sensitive to it and the dye would affect his behavior very seriously. A number of pharmacy didn't have the time to look up the ingredients for me or gave me the wrong information. It is very frustrating. Thank goodness he has seemed to have grown out of it.

Bosefius said...

Taking to my wife (a RN) this is actually a) common throughout the industry and b) is not being addressed at all. My wife recommend making a list of known "safe" meds as you discover them. However, there is no requirement that a manufacturer notify anyone when they change the inactive ingredients in their medicines so they don't. So even if something is on the safe list this month that could change next month.

Your best bet may be to find a small, non-chain pharmacy. They will be able to give better attention to your son's needs and normally keep medications from the same order/batch in stock longer so will have more reliability.

Good luck