A medical assistant uses a machine that measures cholesterol during a free health screening at the Mayor's Back to School Fair in Dallas, Texas August 6, 2009. (Photo : Reuters)
The Federal Drug Administration said India-based Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals agreed to stop producing the drug atorvastatin, when it couldn't explain how the glass found its way into the pills.
"I think the quick message is that the company has real difficulties with quality control," said Dr. Edward Boyer of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The company first issued a recall on Nov. 9, but has been unable to determine the source of the problem since then.
The tiny glass particles are unlikely to pose a danger to human life. At a millimeter in diameter or smaller, they are about as irritating as sand, but they could cause irritation of the digestive system.
"Consumers who are concerned that they may have received a recalled product should consult with their pharmacist where they bought the product to confirm whether they received a recalled product, should stop taking the product if it was recalled, and should consult with their pharmacist or physician about how to obtain an alternative product," the FDA said in a statement.
Ranbaxy makes about a third of the supply of generic Lipitor in the country. The FDA doesn't expect a shortage of the drug, since there are many other suppliers.
Brand-name Lipitor was once the best-selling drug in the world until the patent expired. Now most insurance companies only cover generic versions, which cost about $1 per pill less.