Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Not a Valentine's gift, but still nice

In the pharmaceutical industry, cleanliness is a big deal. What is taken for "clean" at hospitals is not acceptable in a pharmaceutical manufacturing environment. Even sterile is not good enough. Dead bacteria are definitely not allowed, not even enzymes, nor random pieces of DNA. That's why they use blister packs and tamper evident packaging, to ensure sterility and wholesomeness. They do random quality control tests to make sure all batches adhere to their standards, which of course ensures no contamination.

So why, then, when you get prescription medicine, a random technician counts your pills by hand in a non-sterile environment? Who double-checks if he/she is actually putting the right medication and dose in the bottle? Is he/she wearing sterile gloves, a net and a mask? Who knows?

That was one of the shocks when I first came to the USA. A country where everything is supposed to be regulated for the better was allowing for this unreliable practice. And of course we've all heard of pharmacists giving people the wrong pills or the wrong dose. Human error comes to  play each time a pharmacist prepares a prescription. This defeats the industry's purpose of striving to have proper quality control.

Last time I picked up my antidepressant, I was gladly surprised. It did not come in an orange bottle where a technician had stuck his fingers into, like the two previous months (and like they always do with all my prescriptions). It came in a sealed bottle. Now that's what I call progress.

I really don't care for Valentine's Day, but this was a good gift.

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