A drug recall occurs after the Food and Drug Administration receives numerous adverse reaction reports from physicians in regards to a particular drug, or after the manufacturer realizes that there was a deficiency in their manufacturing process. To put it simply, a drug recall removes the affected prescription or over-the-counter drug from the market. Generally, a recall must be warranted by the high likelihood that the drug will cause extremely serious injury or death. While all drug recalls are not to be taken lightly, the FDA classifies them as Category I, II or III.

Category I: The use of, or exposure to, the recalled drug is most likely capable of causing a serious health issue or even death to the consumer.

Category II: The use of, or exposure to, the recalled drug is not likely to cause a serious health issue. At most, it may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences.

Category III: The use of, or exposure to, the recalled drug is not likely to cause an adverse reaction.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of a variety of products, including drugs, medical devices. and foods. The FDA provides important and timely clinical information about safety issues involving medical products, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, biologics, medical devices, and special nutritional products, including medical foods and dietary supplements. The FDA issues and/or announces product safety alerts, recalls, withdrawals, and important labeling changes that may affect the health of all Americans. The FDA recently announced its major initiative to more aggressively protect Americans.

The FDA expects companies to take full responsibility for product recalls, including follow-up checks to assure that recalls are successful. After a recall is completed, the FDA makes sure that the product is destroyed or suitably reconditioned and investigates why the product was defective.

A SAFETY ALERT is a notice or warning issued in situations where a medical device or product may present an unreasonable risk of substantial harm. In some cases, these situations are also considered recalls.

Between 2011 and 2012, approximately 20 million patients took at least one of several drugs subsequently withdrawn from the market, and since 1993, pharmaceutical drugs have been implicated in at least 1,000 deaths. The largest and most serious drugs recalls in recent years have been the diet drugs known as fen-phen used by over 6 million people, the cholesterol drug Baycol, and the diabetes drug Rezulin, each used by over 700,000 people. Additionally, a number of drugs still on the market have also received safety warnings or notices from the FDA- including, the anti-depressant Serzone, the arthritis drug Arava, the painkiller Vioxx, and the hormone replacement treatment pill called Prempro. In addition to prescription drugs, a number of popular herbal and dietary supplements, such as the ephedra based supplements, have been linked to serious health risks.