Tainted drugs: When medicine makes patients sicker

Since the start of 2013, pharmaceutical companies based in the U.S. or abroad have recalled about 8,000 medicines, a Kaiser Health News investigation shows.
6:21 | 01/04/19

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Transcript for Tainted drugs: When medicine makes patients sicker
Thank you, A.B. Now the "Gma" cover story. An alarming new report about medicine that may be in your home. An exclusive investigation from Kaiser health news finding contaminated medicine is making its way into homes and the hospitals nationwide. And some were taken by sick patients. Gio Benitez is here with this shocking finding. Reporter: Yeah, incredibly Kaiser health news says about 8,000 medicines have been recalled in the past five years and one problem, potentially dangerous contamination including glass and bacteria. Kaiser also telling us hundreds of manufacturing plants have gone years without fda drug quality inspections so this morning that question, could potentially dangerous meds be get nothing our homes and our bodies? At Anderson's six-month checkup he was diagnosed with heart failure needing a heart transplant. He was sick. He wasn't eating properly. Reporter: He was prescribed a medicine in may of 2016. But weeks later Anderson developed a fever and had breathing problems. The doctor said that his lungs were collapsed. Reporter: Test results showed he was infected with the bacteria that is found in soil and water and can be harmful to people with compromised immune systems. His doctor telling the source. The medicine was contaminated with the same bacteria. We were shocked. We were angry. Reporter: The medication Anderson was given was voluntarily recalled twice, at least 63 other people were seriously infected by the product according to reports from the fda and centers for disease control but according to Kaiser health news, before the medication was recalled, the plant where it was manufactured passed an fda inspection even while making some products laced with bacteria. Kaiser's investigation finding drugs got through, bacteria or not. The fact they were recalled means they somehow got through all of the systems that should keep potentially harmful products from reaching consumers. It did make it to patients' medicine cabinet. Hospital supply rooms. Reporter: Kaiser found within a year of passing an fda inspection, 65 plants recalled nearly 300 medications. We also found that sometimes fda inspectors will cite a plant repeatedly for the same violation over and over and over again and the plant will continue making drugs. Reporter: Kaiser's investigation also finding nearly 3,000 recalls were issued at plants that had not had a drug quality inspection by the fda in at least ten years. Now, three years old Anderson requires 24-hour care. His family is suing the manufacturer of the contaminated medication alleging dangerous life-threatening injuries. Pharmatech has denied responsibility for his injuries according to court filings. The company did not respond to Kaiser or "Gma's" request for comment. The fda told "Gma" it takes its commitment to patient safety very seriously and is taking steps to inspect all drug facilities in our inventory that were not previously inspected. Recalls happen for a number of reasons and may not have anything to do with an inspection or risks to consumers. We spoke with the manufacturers association for brand and generic medicines who told us safety is a top priority and believe fda oversight makes U.S. Medicine the safest in the world. If you're worried, you can check the latest recalled medicines right now on the fda's website. Robin. Thank you. We hope little Anderson will make a full recovery and will be okay. Now, you are a practicing physician. What is your take? Well, robin, it's upsetting and concerning to be crystal clear. There should never be impurities or contaminants in our medication or drug supply but we have a saying in medicine when you look for something oftentimes you will find something, so these inspections that are now going on and should be going on routinely, I'm not surprised that they're finding things. I have to be hopeful that this will be an opportunity to improve our system and make it safer because this is a big wake-up call. It is a big wake-up call. Looking at gio's piece and seeing some of the medicines are affected by bacteria but other medications including blood pressure medications are being recalled for contains carcinogens. That's big. When you look into the manufacturing process, there can be problems at literally every step along the way with contaminants, impurities, fake medications in some cases especially those made obviously in other countries. Those things happen also when the packaging occurs but when you talk about those blood pressure medications and I want people to take a look at this list, these are medications made at a specific manufacturing plant in China, amlodipine. Value sar tang, losartan. Irbesartan. Ask your pharmacist where those drugs were made. Top of the line -- I take that first one, so what am I and others to do if you're on a blood pressure medication? What's our next step. Or any medication, so let's take a global macro view here. First of all, only take medication if it is absolutely indicated and necessary and that goes for over-the-counter medications as well. If you are on a medication either short term or long term, and you develop any new symptom or reaction, discuss that with your health care provider and/or your pharmacist and cost is a factor for everyone. A lot of people buy their meds online. If you do that, use caution because, again, we have issues in this country but other parts of the world, their manufacturing process is completely unchartered territory and never, ever abruptly discontinue or change a dose of a medication without speaking to your health care provider or the pharmacist. But we will be following this story for sure. We have not heard the end of it. You are always on top of thing, Jen. We appreciate it very much. All great suggestions.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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