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Millions Learn Common Prescription Heart Drugs Are Not FDA Approved

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The medication - sublingual nitroglycerin tablets - is placed under the tongue to relieve chest pain or to stop a heart attack. Some 80 percent of the 4.4 million prescriptions written in 2009 were filled with unapproved drugs, according to a national healthcare research firm.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials stated the unapproved nitroglycerin tablets have not been proven safe and effective, and the FDA has not reviewed the quality and labeling of these products. Without naming any manufacturers, the statement also said the FDA has seen significant quality and efficacy problems with some unapproved nitroglycerin products.

“If it’s not approved and no one has tested it, we can’t be sure that it’s safe and effective,” Dr. Harry M. Lever, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said in an interview with The New York Times. If patients with angina took substandard or ineffective nitroglycerin tablets, Lever said, their pain might not subside and the problem could potentially progress to a heart attack.

Pfizer Inc. markets the single federally approved nitroglycerin pill, Nitrostat, which has been available since 2000, and has agreed to increase production. The FDA plans to work with patient organizations and health professionals to ensure they’re aware an approved product is available.

Consumers are being advised by the FDA to continue using the unapproved products and to consult their doctors about replacement prescriptions. The FDA is not issuing a recall, the products will remain on drug store shelves and continue to be sold.

Warning letters have been sent to the two leading suppliers of the unapproved drugs, Konec Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., and Glenmark Generics Inc. of Mahwah, New Jersey, giving them 90 days to stop making the drugs and six months to stop shipping them. Konec Inc. has stated the company will take the steps needed to follow the FDA approval process. The Mubai, India–based parent firm of Glenmark Generics has stated the company will stop manufacturing unapproved nitroglycerin tablets.

The heart medication isn’t the only drug that’s sold to consumers without review or approval from the FDA, which was established in 1938. Many firms contend their medications were developed before 1938 and do not require FDA approval. The agency now disputes that stand and is reviewing multiple drugs. The action on nitroglycerin tablets comes after a review found millions of consumers have been receiving unapproved versions.

Under an initiative to protect the public from unapproved drugs, the FDA has identified dozens of prescription drug manufacturers that fail to obtain FDA approvals that ensure safety standards are met.During the past 18 months the FDA initiative has gone after firms making and distributing drugs including allergy pills, a migraine medication, morphine and more. A link to the complete list of these drugs is below under sources.

Sources for more information:

All prescription drugs:

Drugs Marketed in the United States That Do Not Have Required FDA Approval - http://bit.ly/2aKnfn

Podcast: FDA’s Actions Against Marketing Unapproved Drugs: http://bit.ly/9arlWV


New York Times: F.D.A. Says Millions Got Unapproved Heart Pills:

FDA News Release - FDA Orders 2 Companies to Stop Marketing Unapproved Nitroglycerin Tablets - http://bit.ly/bnWRd3

Consumer Questions and Answers - FDA's Action Involving Unapproved Nitroglycerin Sublingual Tablets: http://bit.ly/aqTDtx

About the author: Pat Elliott is a journalist and blogger who has written about health issues for more than 20 years. She is also a cancer survivor who coaches people on how to manage their transition and take control of their new future.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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