A large manufacturing plant in Lincoln, Nebraska, has been voluntarily shut down by Novartis while the company addresses quality control issues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a critical report of the plant last June, after addressing complaints from consumers about mix-ups between powerful prescription medication and common over-the-counter drugs. Recalls have been made on human medications such as Excedrin, NoDoz, Bufferin, and Gas-X.
Pet medications are also produced in the Lincoln plant, and the shut down has suspended production of Clomicalm, Interceptor Flavor Tabs, Sentinel Flavor Tabs, Program Tablets and Suspension, and Milbemite. Veterinarians have been unable to order these medications since early January. Deramaxx is also affected, but the supplies the plant had on hand were still being shipped out as of early January.
"This is still an emerging situation," said Dr. Jennifer Coates, author of petMD's FullyVetted. "While I haven’t yet heard of any mix-ups with the animal drugs that Novartis has stopped shipping, reports could start coming in as a greater number of veterinary practices and pet owners start to examine their inventories."
Novartis Animal Health issued a letter to veterinarians on January 5, warning them about the suspended production and shipments. Although a press release was issued, consumers have voiced complaints that more had not been done to warn them of the issue.
"Rather than being proactive and putting patient safety first, it seems like Novartis has tried to minimize the public’s awareness of the problem," said Dr. Coates. "I think Novartis needs to completely reexamine its approach to patient safety. As the Tylenol recall of the 1980s showed, consumers will give credit to a drug manufacturer that appears to be doing all it can when a crisis hits. Openness is the answer, not damage control."
When veterinarians run out of their supply of Novartis Animal Health brands, they will be obligated to start recommending alternatives for patients’ pets. Competing brands, such as Heartgard, Trifexis, Iverhart Max, and Rimadyl, are among the list of medications that will likely be recommended.
“Drug shortages are certainly a possibility if the shipments don’t resume soon,” said Dr. Coates. “Thankfully, the Novartis drugs are not the only ones available to prevent or treat the diseases in question. Switching to another medication should be relatively easy if drug shortages do develop or questions about quality control continue. Of course, such changes should always be made under the supervision of a veterinarian.”
Novartis has made no indication of when production might resume. A Novartis representative could not be reached for comment as of this time.
If you have additional questions related to the product or the halting of production, contact Novartis Animal Health’s department of Technical Product Services at 1-800-637-0281 and press 5 to speak with a representative (available Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Time).