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CVS pharmacy mix-up causes kids to get breast cancer drug instead of fluoride pills

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State authorities are investigating how a CVS pharmacy dispensed a breast cancer drug in place of fluoride tablets for nearly three months.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has issued an Order demanding that CVS-Chatham representatives appear before Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, March 9, 2012 for an inquiry of how the pharmacy dispensed Tamoxifen in place of prescription fluoride tablets to children of as many as fifty families.

Doctors prescribe Tamoxifen for the treatment of breast cancer. It is in a class of drugs known as antiestrogens and works by blocking activity of the female hormone estrogen in the breast to stop the growth of tumors. Doctors also prescribe it for the treatment of McCune-Albright syndrome in children. Tamoxifen use has risks of serious side effects and drug interactions.

Chewable fluoride tablets are prescribed for the prevention of cavities in children.

The CVS pharmacy in Chatham, NJ mixed up the drugs on prescriptions filled from December 1, 2011 through February 20, 2012.

“We have taken immediate action to determine how many families may have been impacted by this potentially dangerous situation and how we can best address this with the pharmacy to identify those families and prevent any harm to children going forward,” said Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said in a release. “We want to get the word out to the public so that we can reach any residents in the area who may have been given the wrong pills.”

A pharmaceutical expert told The Huffington Post that it was unlikely that Tamoxifen would cause any serious adverse effect when used for a short period of time.

“When pharmacy customers receive medications other than those prescribed, especially for their children, the public has a clear expectation that regulatory authorities will act quickly to ascertain the facts and the scope of any lapses that may have occurred,” said Director Calcagni. “CVS has admitted mistakenly dispensing breast cancer medication in lieu of fluoride tablets intended for children. Public safety implications compel an examination of the safety controls in place, not just for these drugs but for all others including those classified as Controlled Dangerous Substances.”

The Division of Consumer Affairs advised that parents who believe their child ingested the Tamoxifen drug contact the child’s doctor immediately.

All consumers who received the wrong prescription medication from the CVS pharmacy in Chatham, NJ are urged to call the agency’s Consumer Service Center hotline, 800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.

“The health and safety of our customers is our highest priority and we are deeply sorry for the mistake that occurred at our Chatham, NJ pharmacy,” CVS Caremark said in a statement to ABC News. “Beginning last week, we have contacted or have left messages for every family whose child was dispensed a 0.5 mg fluoride prescription from our Chatham location within the past 60 days. Fortunately, most of the families we have spoken to did not indicate that their children received any incorrect pills. We will continue to follow up with families who believe that their children may have ingested incorrect medication.”

CVS Caremark is the second largest drug store chain in the United States.