The CVS Pharmacy on Main Street in Chatham may have recently mixed tablets of the breast cancer drug tamoxifen with fluoride tablets for children.
Parents who have filled fluoride prescriptions since Dec. 20 should check the pills for the letters “SCI” stamped on one side and the numbers “1007” stamped on the reverse side.
The Tamoxifen pills have the letter “M” stamped on one side and the numbers “274” on the reverse.
Both pills are round, white and about the same size.
Michael DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS, said in an emailed statement to Chatham Patch the company has been in contact with “every family whose child was dispensed a fluoride prescription from our Chatham location” in the 60 days before Feb. 20, a total of about 50 families.
Al Brown, a pharmacist at Liberty Drug & Surgical, said parents who believe their children have taken tamoxifen should call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222.
“If somebody took one pill, it’s not going to have any bad effect,” Brown said, but “depending on how old the child was, … when it was taken … [and] any other details about that, I would certainly have them call the poison hotline,” Brown said.
Children’s fluoride tablets are chewable and made to have a pleasant taste. The taste of tamoxifen, on the other hand, would not be agreeable for children.
“Things that don’t taste good to a child, they spit out right away,” Brown said. “And [tamoxifen] is not really a chewable tablet, it’s a swallowable tablet.”
Under the CVS pharmacy policy, drugs that look the same, such as tamoxifen and fluoride tablets, are supposed to be kept “in separate areas” to keep them from being mixed up.
DeAngelis said corrective actions will be taken to prevent the error from happening again, and CVS will “continue to follow up” with patients who believe they may have ingested tamoxifen.
Of the families contacted by CVS, DeAngelis said most did not find tamoxifen pills among the fluoride tablets.
“Fortunately, most of the families we have spoken to did not indicate that their children received any incorrect pills,” DeAngelis said. “We will continue to follow up with families who believe that their children may have ingested incorrect medication.”
Tamoxifen is used to prevent the growth of certain kinds of breast cancer. The drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1977 as a breast cancer treatment, and approved again as a drug to prevent the recurrence of cancer for patience whose breast cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
The drug can be used by both premenopausal and postmenopausal women, and can be used to treat breast cancer in men. Tamoxifen may also be used to prevent breast cancer in women women deemed at high risk of developing the disease.