In the absence of broader federal notification requirements, the onus is on consumers to find out about drug recalls that could affect them. Here are a few ways to go about it.
* The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) highlights some recalls on its home page, www.fda.gov, under "Safety Alerts." All recalls are posted weekly in the agency's Enforcement Report, www.fda.gov/opacom/Enforce.html. But reviewing this information requires wading through hard-to-read, dense lists of drug, device and food recalls. Susan Allen, associate director for scientific and medical affairs at the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says the agency is retooling the site and a more user-friendly version should be up within a few months.
* Drugstore.com customers can sign up for "eMedAlert," a free e-mail service that notifies recipients of certain drug recalls and other medication warnings. But because its recall notices are generally limited to medications purchased by the site's customers, some important recall notices may not be posted. The online pharmacy also publishes a short list of recalls on its Web site, which is available to anyone. Chris Pierce, pharmacist-in-charge for drugstore.com, says company pharmacists review all drug recall information before deciding what to place on the Web site, but they tend to limit postings to medications purchased by their customers.
* One useful site is www.safetyalerts.org, which takes its information from the FDA's Enforcement Report but is much easier to read. The site lists the reason for the recall but doesn't indicate the severity category that the FDA assigned to it. If you want to be sure that you don't miss a recall of a particular drug, you can sign up with safetyalerts.org for a free individualized alert by e-mail.
-- Francesca Lunzer Kritz