New Brunswick pharmacists have been busy fielding calls from some anxious patients after news of an urgent recall of Alysena-28 birth control pills broke on Monday.

The Canadian distributor, Apotex, says one batch of the Alysena-28 may contain two weeks of placebo sugar pills instead of one.

The error can reduce the effectiveness of the pills and raises the possibility of unplanned pregnancy, officials said.

Dennis Abud, who owns the Jean Coutu in Dieppe, says the problem packs should be fairly easy to spot because there is an extra row of white, placebo pills.

"In a normal pill pack, there should be three rows of the 20 milligrams of a certain colour, pinkish, and the fourth row would be white," he said.


One batch of Alysena-28 birth control pills contained an extra week of placebo sugar pills. ((CBC))

"So if there was a problem, where they added an extra placebo, it would be pretty visible to the patient, for a patient who's used to taking the medicine. But a new patient who's just received a pack, there could be a problem."

Pregnancy tests urged

The recall affects thousands of packages distributed in all provinces except Saskatchewan and Alberta. The code on the recalled packages is LF01899A.

Abud said all of the lots of Alysena-28 his pharmacy has in stock are fine.

"We are proceeding to print off a list of all the patients who've received the prescription, and calling them, just to make sure all their lots are OK," he said.

Anyone who thinks they may have taken the problem pills should call a pharmacist and take a pregnancy test, he said.

Recall deemed disturbing

Apotex informed wholesalers and retailers of the recall on Friday, but did not inform women who are taking the pill.

Health Canada issued the urgent recall on Monday.

News of the packaging mix up shocked women approached by CBC News in Fredericton on Tuesday, including those who don't use Alysena-28.

"You don't expect it to be like, all the sudden, 'Oh no, it's just not working for me,' in case you get pregnant or something. That's a scary thought," said one woman.

"I thought it was pretty freaky," said another. "I mean, it's not a bother to me, but I think there could be a lot of other people who are affected by it," she said.

Meanwhile, some women wondered about other possible recalls involving other brands. "In your mind you wonder, 'Does mine have those risks, as well?'"