Consumer advice: Getting sick over prescription recalls

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Some “lots” of a commonly prescribed medicine, effective in treating high blood pressure, are being recalled by the FDA. This recall is for the drug Hydrochorothiazide, in 12.5 mg tablets.

The problem is, a small number of “lots” have been mislabeled. The drug that should be Hydrochorothiazide is actually 25 mg tablets of Spiroonolactone, a drug used to treat congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver and other ailments. The FDA says in its warning that the effects of mixing up these two medications can be “limited” to “life-threatening.” Specifically the recall is for a single lot of the drug PW05264.

If you’re in doubt, call your health care provider. The correct tablets are supposed to be light orange, round and have an “H” and a “1” on opposite sides.

Recently, I wrote about a similar recall and got some angry emails and a couple of calls, accusing me of creating a lot of extra work for nurses and doctors’ offices in checking prescriptions for concerned consumers, many elderly. While I am very sensitive to causing unnecessary upset, if those complaining to me had talked with the six people in our area who discovered they DID indeed have the recalled medications, I suspect they would have been less shrill.

Bottom line, no apologies from me on this one. LESSON: Know what you’re putting in your mouth, and read the above warning carefully, and your medication container even more carefully. If you’re still in doubt, call your health care provider!

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VERIZON — TWO KINDS OF STORES: Even in an area as small as North Idaho, Verizon has a couple of company-owned stores AND many “contract” stores. Problems can arise when some contract employees are not as knowledgeable as the employees at the company stores.

In addition, I understand that contract store employees’ pay is more commission-based than Verizon employees’. The problem is further exacerbated in that to the average consumers, the stores look very similar, if not exactly the same.

One elderly consumer says she was sold a basic flip phone and was assured that it would work at her residence. It didn’t. She returned to the store and was told that it was her fault that it didn’t work. The “customer service” representative gave her some techie mumbo jumbo so she went home and tried it again. It still didn’t have a strong enough signal to work at her residence.

According to the consumer, from the beginning she made it clear to the salesperson where she lived. After the third attempt, she became very upset in the retail location and they agreed to take back the phone and cancel her service, without penalty.

The next month she got a bill for the full purchase price of the flip phone that never worked! When she called the office, she said, they had no time to talk with her, and would offer no help. I will meet with her this week to draft a certified letter to Verizon. I will also recommend she file a complaint with the BBB and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. LESSON: Know who you’re dealing with. Is it a regular “company store” or a contract reseller of Verizon service and products?

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DRONING ON: High tech is coming to our fire, police and EMS services.

A concerned citizen and consumer contacted me about our local fire departments starting to use drones as a regular part of their service. Her email to me raised a number of valid concerns. I immediately contacted a good friend of mine who I knew would give me the straight story — a guy who’s grown up here, been a firefighter his whole adult life and is now a fire chief. The chief’s take on the situation was interesting and very informative.

The way it works now, for a drone equipment area, if you are involved in an accident, or say your home is on fire, a drone can automatically be dispatched to the exact location and provide the police, firefighters or the emergency medical services real-time video images showing exactly what’s going on and what help is needed.

Here’s my takeaway: Technology is here to stay, and it’s advancing so fast that there will be unforeseen problems. Concerning drones, noise and privacy are two that immediately come to mind. The FAA has had to institute new rules regarding who can fly a drone, altitude limits, license requirements, and training.

Drones are now way more than playthings for geeks. Local governments need to address the legitimate concerns of citizens and consumers. It does occur to me that if you don’t want to hear sirens at all hours of the day and night, don’t buy or build your home next to an existing fire station.

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I GOT A CHECK …: Last week, more than 20 consumers from our area called me and reported that they had received “real” checks for no particular reason at all. One consumer actually mailed his “check” to me. It looked real to me, until I went online, looked up the name of the bank and called the bank directly to verify the authenticity of the check. Of course, the whole thing was bogus.

The check, had it been deposited, would have bounced higher than the proverbial rubber ball. In the meantime, many recipients of the check would be out fueling our economy with their newfound wealth. A few days later, the bill would become due when the check would be returned PLUS a bounced check charge!

If you get one of these (for that matter, if you get any large, unexpected, unexplained check), call the issuing bank and ensure that it’s a real check and not something printed en masse on a high-end printer or copy machine. REMEMBER: NEVER call the number on the check. If the check is a scam, the telephone number on the check will be answered by a scammer. When in doubt, if you can’t figure it out — call me.

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SOME PEOPLE DON’T LISTEN (OR READ): A few more people have been conned into paying a scammer with gift or cash cards called this week. This always happens in response to incoming calls. If you don’t get it, call me. I will tell you in a very loud, definitive (but loving) voice, “Don’t do it!” NO LEGITIMATE DEBT IS EVER PAID BY GIFT OR CASH CARD — EVER!

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REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at 208-699-BILL. You can follow me at www.billbrooks.us. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate who lives in Coeur d’Alene with his proofreader, Bobbi (who is also his wife).

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