Several packs of Nurofen Plus were found to contain Seroquel XL, a powerful anti-psychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia, on Thursday.
Friday, after a safety alert was issued, pharmacists have been told to check each package of Nurofen Plus to look for anti-psychotic drugs after sabotaged packs were found in Boots stores across London the day before.
Nurofen Plus packages containing Seroquel XL blisters have been found in Boots stores in Victoria, Beckenham and Bromley.
It is speculated that militant activists for animal protection carried out the sabotage operation with the intention of damaging Nurofen Plus’s producer, Reckitt Benckiser.
The pharmaceutical company may have been targeted because it tests some products on animals, although not Nurofen Plus.
Reckitt Benckiser said Friday that it didn’t know where the drugs had been switched.
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Boots’ spokeswoman told the Evening Standard:
“We are working closely with the MHRA to aid investigations and we have communicated with our stores and asked our pharmacists to be extra vigilant by checking the Nurofen Plus packet before selling it.”
The “sabotaged” Nurofen Plus packs – containing a total of 500,000 tablets – have been sent to pharmacies across the UK.
It is suspected that blister strips containing the tablets have been changed while in a wholesalers’ warehouse.
On Thursday, 3 tampered Nurofen Plus packs were discovered in south London, and an immediate investigation is under way to identify whether a group or an activist acting alone was behind the action of changing blisters.
Siân Boisseau, director of Virgo Health, the PR company which represents Nurofen, told the Mail:
“There has been a suggestion that the packets were deliberately put in the wrong boxes.
It was not discovered until the packets arrived in store. It was not in the manufacturing process or supply chain. It is not a mix-up and is still being investigated.”
A Virgo Health spokesman added police were not involved so far but could be in the future.
Patients who accidentally take the antipsychotic Seroquel XL may experience sleepiness and are advised not to operate any tools or machinery until they know how the tablets have affected them.
AstraZeneca, producer of Seroquel, said those who had mistakenly taken the drug should contact their GP and bring the blisters back to the pharmacy where they bought it.
Seroquel XL side effects include dizziness, headache and sleepiness, which affect more than one in ten users.
[googlead tip="lista_mare" aliniat="stanga"]Nurofen Plus and Seroquel XL are packaged differently – the blisters containing large capsules of Seroquel XL 50mg tablets have gold and black packaging while the Nurofen Plus pills are smaller and have silver and black packaging.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has asked pharmacists to check 32-tablet packs of Nurofen Plus, which is sold only in pharmacies.
There are three batches of Nurofen Plus which were affected by the alert.
They are: batch number 13JJ, expiry date 03/2014, licence number 00327/0082; 57JJ, 05/2014, 00063/0376, and 49JJ, 05/2014, 00063/0376.
Each batch contains 4,000 -7,500 packages, amounting to around 500,000 tablets.
It said that not all packs are affected.
Ian Holloway, from the MHRA’s defective medicines report centre, said:
“People should check to see if they have any affected packets of Nurofen Plus. If you do, return them to the pharmacy where you bought them from.”
Reckitt Benckiser said “serious investigations” were under way to establish how and who switched the blisters, especially as Seroquel XL is manufactured by a different pharmaceutical company.
Reckitt Benckiser added:
“After careful review of the manufacturing system, manufacturing errors by the makers of Nurofen Plus or Seroquel XL are not thought to be part of the cause at this stage.
We are taking this matter very seriously and are working closely with the regulatory authority, the MHRA, and pharmacies. The MHRA are investigating the issue, and have considerable law enforcement powers.
Nurofen Plus is not available for self-selection from the shop floor – and therefore pharmacists are able to check packs and greatly reduce the likelihood of affected packs being sold.”
Dr. Aomesh Bhatt, medical director for Nurofen Plus, said:
“We are taking this matter extremely seriously and we are working closely with the MHRA.
Additionally, we are in the process of working to ensure the Nurofen Plus packs are double-checked by pharmacy staff before they are handed to customers.
We encourage consumers of Nurofen Plus to be vigilant and, while it is very unlikely, should they find they have a suspect pack or if they have any other concerns, we advise them to speak to the pharmacist where they purchased the product.”
Dr. Bhatt added that Nurofen Plus had a “firm policy” of not testing on animals.