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Pfizer recalls migraine med Relpax because of bacterial contamination

Migraine headache/epilepsy brain image

For the second time in four months, Pfizer is voluntarily recalling some lots of its Relpax migraine drug. (creative commons)

After an earlier recall of Relpax, Pfizer is again tracking down a couple of lots of the migraine headache med. This time, however, instead of a labeling issue, it is because the affected drugs may be contaminated with bacteria that could cause fatal infections in some patients.

Pfizer Wednesday issued the nationwide voluntary recall for the 40 mg tablets, saying they may be tainted by the bacteria genera pseudomonas and burkholderia. So far, Pfizer has received no reports of adverse events but said for patients with some diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, a bacterial infection can be very serious, even fatal. 

The two lots of Relpax (eletriptan) were distributed throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico in June and July. 

In late April, Pfizer had recalled five lots of Relpax. In that case, it was because there was an artwork error on the secondary packaging indicating the meds were 20 mg tablets instead of 40 mg tablets.  

Relpax, which has been off patent in the U.S. since 2016, is not a big seller, bringing in only $90 million last year. The older migraine drugs have been eclipsed by a new generation of injected migraine treatments which offer longer-lasting relief but come with big price tags. 

Amgen’s Aimovig, Teva’s Ajovy and Eli Lilly’s Emgality carry list prices of $6,900 per year but can be injected monthly, or in some cases quarterly, to offer extended relief.