Monday 16 September 2013

A Ticking Time Bomb - Recalls in Healthcare

When I was in my 20's, I suffered a bout of serious depression.  In the hospital, I was introduced to a petite brunette with soft, clipped speech... her name was Connie.  I usually sat beside Connie in group therapy and one day, I became distracted by the the sound of ticking - it seemed to be getting louder and once I noticed it, I became fixated.  "Where is that clock?" I asked, "Can we put it outside the room?  It's kind of annoying."

Connie turned and blinked.  Everyone inhaled - some people looked downwards while others glared at me, angry.  "What?  What's wrong?....." I whispered.

Connie explained, "What you hear is my heart valve.  Well, actually I have two valves - that is the ticking sound you hear.  What you don't know is that I have been told that my heart valves might fail at any moment and I will die immediately.  They have been recalled by the manufacturer, but my surgeon says it's too risky to remove them.  I might not survive their replacement.  So... I have to live the rest of my life knowing that any minute my valves will fail and I will die."

Connie was part of a successful class action suit against the valve manufacturer and you can read more about her story HERE.

Meeting Connie was my first experience in knowing something about healthcare recalls, but it wouldn't be my last.

My son Nicholas has a huge history of orthopaedic difficulties resulting from cerebral palsy.  Throughout his youth, Nick's joint pain was treated with an anti-inflammatory drug called VIOXX.  In 2004, VIOXX was taken off the market amid concerns that it could cause stroke or heart attack.  That was the year that Nicholas suffered gastric bleeding, a symptom that the treating physician blamed on long-term use of VIOXX.

Recalls in healthcare are always problematic, but what if you or your loved one are on a drug or receiving a treatment that you don't know has been recalled?  Perhaps you have been taken off the offending drug, but later experience symptoms that could be attributed to that drug?  What can patients do to educate themselves about recalled drugs and treatments?

I am happy to announce that there is a new online tool for patient education - it's free and it's available to everyone.  Staff at the American Recall Center explain their service this way:

If you care for someone in your family that’s ever had a medical procedure or taken a prescription medication, there’s something you ought to know. The FDA is continually issuing warnings and recalls for drugs and medical devices that affect thousands every day. These recalls span a wide array of drugs and devices, making it difficult to keep tabs on the few that are pertinent to you and your care.

We know that you always try your best to be up-to-date with the happenings in the medical world, but that it can also be very difficult to find the time. Because of caregivers’ hectic schedules and the frequent pace of new information and complicated explanations from the FDA, it can be overwhelming to find trustworthy information. The American Recall Center aims to make that easier. By building a comprehensive resource on the Internet for consumer-related healthcare topics, patients can have the knowledge they need about their health. With our easy-to-find and timely information, we can help keep the focus back where it belongs: caring.

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