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Pfizer recalls more Lipitor batches

Pfizer has recalled 38,000 bottles of Lipitor, which treats high cholesterol, over concerns about a strange odour

For the third time since August, Pfizer has recalled batches of its blockbuster cholesterol-fighting drug Lipitor (atorvastatin), the world's biggest selling pharmaceutical, because of a strange odour associated with the packaging. 

This recall, which affects 38,000 bottles of the 40mg dose distributed in the US, comes after Pfizer recalled a total of more than 330,000 bottles because of similar concerns in two separate incidents in recent months.

Pfizer has released a statement saying that the odour is caused by exposure of the packaging to 'low levels of TBA (tribromoanisole) [from a wood preservative used in wooden pallets] as [the bottles] are shipped or stored'. 

TBA contamination was also the reason for Johnson & Johnson's recall of several OTC medications earlier this year.

The statement issued by Pfizer went on to claim that the medical risk to patients taking the affected pills 'appears to be minimal'. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, has said that, while the medical risk may be minimal, it is concerned that patients may stop taking their prescribed medication if they detect an unusual odour. 

Sales of Lipitor reached more than $5.5bn in the first half of 2010. Pfizer has warned that additional recalls may be necessary as, though the company no longer deals with the third party manufacturer responsible for the contamination, additional affected bottles may have entered the supply chain before the problem was detected and addressed.

1st November 2010

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