ROCKVILLE, Md. -- What happened in supermarket pharmacies in the wake of a recall of two popular prescription weight-loss drugs?
Supermarket pharmacy directors contacted by SN report little in the way of customer outcry. They attributed the muted response to extensive counseling by pharmacists and doctors since concerns about the drugs, Redux and Pondimin, were made public this summer, and to the resolve of users pleased with the drugs' efficacy.
Regarding customer feedback, "My pharmacists haven't made me aware of anything in particular," said Joe Prigaro, pharmacy director at Star Market, Cambridge, Mass.
"There's been no great firestorm of concern," agreed John Beckner, pharmacy director at Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va.
Beckner spent the day after the recall was announced visiting several Ukrop's pharmacies. "There were a couple of comments about [the recall], but not what you would expect."
One customer who called was eager to know when Redux and Pondimin might again be available for sale, he noted.
Philadelphia-based Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories pulled Redux (dexfenfluramine hydrochloride capsules) and Pondimin (fenfluramine hydrochloride tablets) from the market at the request of the Food and Drug Administration here.
The recall, Wyeth said, was in response to preliminary findings by the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and others that the drugs may cause heart valve abnormalities when taken alone or with phentermine, the commonly prescribed combination known as fen-phen.
According to reports, although the mix has never been approved by the FDA, about 18 million fen-phen prescriptions were written last year.
"We've gotten a couple of phone calls," said Glen Davis, vice president of pharmacy at Houston-based Randalls Food Markets. "But over the past month we've been telling people about the problems, so utilization of the drugs is down anyway."
He added that customers using the drugs, having been informed of the possible dangers, were likely to continue to use the remainder of their supply.
Cynthia Potts, the manager of a Quality Food Centers pharmacy in Everett, Wash., said she had 15 severely obese customers taking prescription weight-loss drugs.
"The majority of those have said they're going to stay on it no matter what; it works well for them."
Beckner said Ukrop's was not recommending over-the-counter alternatives to Redux and Pondimin. "I don't think they're effective, and I think that's the opinion of most pharmacists."
Star, according to Prigaro, is calling all customers who had Redux or Pondimin prescriptions filled in the last 60 days to remind them of the recall and to advise them to contact their doctors.
Davis said Randalls was prepared to refund money to customers who had prescriptions filled by the chain, even though Wyeth has set up a toll-free phone line for that purpose.
"Some people have said they don't want to call the 800 number. They say, 'I want you to take care of me, not some distant place.' "