This isn’t quite like finding a single curly fry among your regular French fries. KVK-Tech, Inc. detected something that didn’t belong among the blood pressure medications that the company was packaging to be delivered around the country: a single 5 mg oxycodone HCl tablet. Yes, this rogue opioid tablet had somehow made its way into the company’s production line for 10 mg betaxolol tablets. As a result, KVK-Tech, Inc. has issued a recall of a lot of these tablets. One specific lot, that is: Batch Number 17853A— as indicated by a company announcement that’s been posted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its website.
Naturally, oxycodone and betaxolol are not interchangeable. No medical doctor should say, “You can either take a narcotic or a blood pressure medication for that problem. Doesn’t matter.” While a curly fry may be very much like a regular French fry but with some added twists, these two meds are very different with very different purposes.
Betaxolol is a type of beta blocker. Beta-blockers block the effects of the hormone epinephrine, otherwise known as adrenaline. This can in turn dilate or expand your blood vessels and slow your heart rate. The widening of your blood vessels can allow your blood pressure to drop.
By contrast, oxycodone is a semi-synthetic narcotic that is typically prescribed for pain relief but has also been a popular drug of abuse. Therefore, it is a controlled substance. In addition to pain relief, oxycodone can cause sedation, feelings of euphoria, constipation, contraction of your pupils—meaning those in your eyes and students that you may be teaching—and respiratory depression. Respiratory depression isn’t when your lungs are feeling down. It’s when your breathing rate slows—potentially to dangerously low rates. An opioid can slow your heart rate as well. So if you find yourself breathing more slowly or thinking, “Wow, this blood pressure medication feels great,” you may have taken oxycodone instead.
And unlike a rogue curly fry, a rogue oxycodone tablet may be tough to distinguish from a betaxolol tablet as both are white, round, and biconvex. So the concern is that someone could inadvertently take oxycodone and then experience some of the aforementioned effects.
Keep in mind that some people taking a blood pressure medication like betaxolol could already have weaker heart and lung function. Therefore, they could be at even greater risk for bad stuff happening, such as their respiratory rate getting way too low, should they accidentally take a narcotic like oxycodone. Additionally, accidental ingestion of an opioid medication can be particularly perilous for anyone with a history of opioid use disorder (OUD) or at risk of such a disorder. Who knows how many tablets it may take to plunge them into the depths of such a disorder?
It’s not clear whether just that one oxycodone tablet made its way onto the production line or there were others as well. So far, there haven’t been any reports of consumers finding oxycodone among their betaxolol tablets or any adverse events occurring.
It’s also not clear how that rogue tablet got to where it was. Oxycodone tablets don’t have little feet. So there must have been some mistake in the production process.
If you do have any of the medications subject to the recall, don’t play tablet roulette and risk consuming a rogue narcotic. Instead, return it to where you purchased it for a refund. KVK has also made arrangements for you to return the medication directly to the Newtown, Pennsylvania-based company in a manner that will provide reimbursement for the medication and shipping costs. Of course, don’t just stop taking any blood pressure medications cold turkey without first talking to your doctor.
This is another reminder that mistakes can happen when medications are manufactured, packaged, and shipped. So, don’t just blindly trust whatever medications you pick up at from a pharmacy or receive via an online order. Keep tabs on the tablets…or capsules or whatever form the medication is taking. Make sure that each matches the description of the medication that you are supposed to be taking.
Moreover, pay attention to how you are feeling after you’ve taken a tablet. If you are experiencing any unanticipated effects—such as euphoria when there is no avocado toast around—notify your pharmacist or physician. Don’t keep such experiences bottled up and instead show them what is in your medication bottle. After all, while the consequences of a rogue curly fry may be elation and a feeling of goodness in the world, the consequences of a rogue medication can be quite dire.