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Aurobindo drug recall in US over presence of foreign tablets

Sushmi Dey/New Delhi 25 Nov 12 | 03:10 PM

Coinciding with Ranbaxy’s voluntary recall of a few batches of Lipitor generic from the US market, it is Aurobindo Pharma’s turn now. An enforcement report brought out by the US Food and Drugs Administration (US FDA) on November 14 shows the Hyderabad based drug maker voluntarily recalled a batch of its drug Zolpidem from the US market in March this year.

According to the US FDA enforcement report, the batch was recalled because of  “adulterated presence of foreign tablets".  “This product is being recalled because 30 valacyclovir hydrochloride tablets USP 500 mg were discovered in a bottle labeled Zolpidem Tartrate tablets USP 10 mg," the US FDA enforcement report said.

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Though the recall is a class II recall and is not considered very severe, it is significant in the light of the fact that the import of products from the company’s unit 3 facility were held by US FDA in the past (in 2011-12) due to packaging discrepancies. US FDA again started approving products from Aurobindo Pharma’s unit 3 only around June following its inspection in March.

The company did not reply to a detailed questionnaire sent by Business Standard on the matter.

After the company started getting approvals for products filed from unit 3 and its capacity was optimally utilized, it shifted some of the products to Unit - 7, which came up in 2010 and is a relatively new facility.

Another of the company’s key manufacturing facility – unit-6, also situated in Andhra Pradesh, continues to be under US import alert since 2011 for serious violations of the US FDA’s manufacturing norms.  Unit-6 is a cephalosporin-based medicine manufacturing unit and accounts for a significant portion of the company’s sales in the US. Recently, the US regulatory authorities conducted inspection of the facility but is yet to give a go ahead.

According to analysts, the financial impact of the recall may not be much but it could be sentimentally negative for the company particularly when it is facing inspection of its facilities by the regulator.

Zolpidem was originally developed and marketed by the Sanofi under the brand name drug Ambien. Apart from Aurobindo, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Caraco pharmaceuticals, Torrent Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Ranbaxy sell the generic version of the drug in the US.

On Friday, another major generic drug maker Ranbaxy Laboratories announced a voluntary recall of some batches of its generic version of Lipitor from the US after it suspected presence of some foreign particles in its tablets. The Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo owned company is also facing troubles in the world’s largest drug market since 2008 after manufacturing violations were found in three of its key facilities in India.

However, analysts say Aurobindo’s recall cannot be compared with that of Ranbaxy. “There is not much clarity on Ranbaxy’s recall of Lipitor generic but it could be a case of contamination which is a serious recall. However, Aurobindo’s recall is just a labeling discrepancy involving just one batch and does not look  very serious," an analyst said.

On Friday, shares of Aurobindo Pharma ended at Rs 172.60 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, down 2.29% from their previous close.

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