Parents in Chatham, New Jersey are alarmed to learn that as many as 50 children's prescriptions for fluoride pills were accidentally switched with Tamoxifen, a powerful breast cancer drug, by a local CVS pharmacy between December 1 and February 20. CVS Caremark told The Associated Press that only a few children ingested the cancer medication, believing it to be the chewable fluoride tablet, and that those children are not likely to suffer any health effects.
"Fortunately, it's very unlikely that this specific drug would cause any serious or adverse effects when used for only a short periods of time," said Daniel Hussar, a professor with the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at the University of the Sciences.
CVS said it had spoken with or left messages for every family whose child was dispensed a 0.5 mg fluoride prescription from its Chatham location within the past 60 days. The company issued a statement Friday that said it was "deeply sorry for the mistake that occurred," although it did not explain how the mistake happened.
Mike DeAngelis, CVS Caremark's director of public relations, has said that "most of the families we have spoken to did not indicate that their children received any incorrect pills." No injuries related to the mix-up have been reported.
Officials say the two pills are similar looking but have distinctively different tastes. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and is usually prescribed by dentists for children, while Tamoxifen is used to treat breast cancer and blocks the female hormone estrogen.
Image: Pill bottle, via Shutterstock.