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Rise in pharmaceutical product recalls highlights worrying trend
[January 26, 2010]

Rise in pharmaceutical product recalls highlights worrying trend

The number of product recalls and safety alerts for pharmaceutical products and medical devices more than quadrupled in the UK between 2004 and 2008, a new study by customer management agency Blueview Group reveals.

The study, which pulls together UK government and European Union figures, shows that over the five year period starting in 2004, recalls and product alerts in the pharmaceutical sector rose from 22 to 94. The biggest year-on-year jump during that period came between 2006 and 2007 when the totals soared from 42 to 81. (For full figures see graphs below.) Nearly two thirds of these actions are down to defects in the manufacturing or performance of a medical device with 62% of recalls or alerts in the sector being issued for this reason. Another 12% of pharmaceutical recalls are due to incorrectly labelled or packaged goods, and 9% are due to compromised sterility owing to packaging errors or poor structural integrity.

Counterfeit products made up only 5% of product recalls or safety alerts in 2007 and accounted for none in 2008, but this seemingly encouraging statistic might instil a false sense of security. In 2007, the European Commission released figures revealing a five-fold increase in fake pharmaceuticals across Europe, with 2006 seizures hitting an all-time high of 2.5 million items. The worrying increase in the incidence of counterfeit drugs and the growing sophistication of the lengths that counterfeiters are now prepared to go to are a constant source of concern for drug manufacturers, prompting ever more research into new technologies and strategies to protect the pharmaceutical supply chain effectively.

Both pharmaceutical and non-food consumer product recalls and safety alerts climbed steeply between 2004 and 2008 while food products have been more stable.

The report’s findings highlight a worrying reality for members of the public concerned about the safety of medication they are using – and for the companies concerned, who see recalls and safety alerts eroding confidence in their brands and their products in general.

Darren Ponsford, Strategy and Planning Director of Blueview Group, comments: “The rise in recalls in the pharmaceutical sector is a worrying trend for consumers. It is vitally important that the UK public has confidence in the companies selling these products and be certain a firm is on top of the situation when something goes wrong. When there is a problem with medication or medical devices, people have to be able to get through to the supplier and be reassured that the company is willing and able to deal with any questions that they have.

“In order to deal with customer queries and concerns effectively, and mitigate brand damage, pharmaceutical companies need to ensure that they have contingency service arrangements in place in the event of a product recall or safety alert crisis. No worse impression is created, nor brand damage inflicted, than in the situation where a company is uncontactable or unhelpful just when consumer concerns have been escalated.

“The forward thinking organisation invests in contingency planning so that it can quickly deploy emergency multi-channel contact centre facilities and effectively handle situations that could potentially turn into a difficult and damaging crisis for a business.” Ponsford adds that pioneer brands have set up proactive contingency service capabilities, so that, when a product recall crisis occurs, customers can easily contact the company with their concerns.

He notes: “Experience from previous recalls indicates that companies that put such contingency facilities in place and then face a product recall have also experienced customers complimenting the company on their handling of the situation.”

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