Birth control recall

Failing to prevent pregnancy is a pretty big failure for a birth control pill. Pfizer is trying to avoid that outcome by recalling 1 million packets of potentially defective pills. What's the problem? Every packet contains 3 week's worth of birth control pills and a week's worth of sugar pills—basically to keep you in the habit of taking a pill every day even during your period week. Some of the defective packs don't contain enough sugar pills. That's not really a problem. In others, however, the actual birth control pills have been swapped for extra sugar pills. That's what Pfizer is worried about. The recall includes Pfizer Lo/Ovral-28 tablets and Akrimax Pharmaceuticals brand Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol tablets.



  1. I, for one, predict an increase in the number of babies named “Placebo”, “Class Action”, and “Tortious Negligence”…

  2. In other news Trojan ran out of latex so they’re using some gummy bear mixture they had laying around for the latest batch of condoms.

  3. Most birth control pills are color coded.  Mine (I don’t use the recalled brand) are white for the active pills and yellow for the inactive ones.  Wouldn’t one be able to tell something is up when they open the package?

    1. I recently had some of my pills recalled (not the brands listed above), but the recall notice came with an explanation saying that the labels were put on upside down, and that the sugar pills were labeled as the first week instead of the last week. I agree that I would have noticed if my pills had been mislabeled or in the wrong place because of the color difference.

  4. I wonder about the packaging process. I’m imagining the kind of automated system you’d see on “How It’s Made”, and in my mind I can’t not think of a system that would make this kind of screw-up quite difficult to achieve. Surely there would be several safeguards in place for something like this.

    Would be interesting, just out of curiosity, to know exactly how it happened. I’m sure they’ve got people investigating it, not that they’ll share their results.

    1. And with a product like this they’d have quite a lot of screening – and if this is something that affects a whole batch – it seems impossible it could have made it to the public.

      I saw condoms on How It’s Made and was surprised at just how much effort they do go to making sure they’re not flawed (at the individual level) – if this process is even remotely similar then it’s a very odd screw up.

    2. For probably under $1k. You get yourself a cheap, low-resolution digital camera, and you add an indexing color dot to the packaging (for orientation). The camera then checks to see that the pills of the correct color are in the correct place. If not, an arm actuates them into a segregation bin.

  5. I’ve always wondered, for like a minute, why they don’t make each set of pills a different shape that fit in a matching divot in the dispenser. Then the sugar pills could never be put in the wrong location in the pack.

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