How well do you inspect the tamper-proof seals on your OTC meds?

In light of current events, with the FBI trying to obtain Ted Kaczynski’s DNA to rule out any possible links to him and the Tylenol cyanide poisonings in 1982, it got be thinking about that whole tragic affair.

It was responsible for initiating tamper-proof seals and such on over the counter medications (et al).

So, how well do you inspect these seals?

I chose “mindlessly tear through it”. But between the acetate wrapper around the cap and the foil seal over the mouth of the bottle I can’t imagine not noticing a breach in one or both of those safety measures. Of course if someone were to stick a syringe up through the bottom of the bottle (and even right through the sealed box) I certainly wouldn’t notice that. But that could happen to food as well.

Having said that, I have noticed that on Hershey bottles I can removed the shrink wrap around the top and put it back on with out destroying it. I’d imagine the same thing could be done with other bottles that have a similar neck geometry.

Right. I suppose if some psychopath was really bent on killing random people, there would be nothing truly stopping them, supposing they’re clever enough to find a work-around, or a new unprotected vector to introduce poison.

I still give them a good once over.

Like Crystal Pepsi or Zima. {{{shudder}}}


It takes me long enough to pick it off that I can give it a glance while I’m getting it open. I don’t really give any specific thought to it, but I’ve never encountered a problematic one.

OTOH, I threw out a whole jar of salsa once because it didn’t make the expected popping sound when I opened it and I was suspicious that it hadn’t been sealed properly. And since it needs to be refrigerated after opening, I wasn’t taking any chances.

Edit: I also threw out a bottle of water once when it came out of the vending machine with the seal already broken. I’m a little paranoid about my food.

That brings up an interesting thought.

Say you opened a bottle of some less-thorough tamper-resistant painkillers. Like a Target generic brand of acetaminophen. So, perhaps it doesn’t have cellophane around the cap, but the foil seal looks ever-so slightly off. Perhaps not glued on right at the factory? It’s really hard to say. Would you toss it / try to exchange it? But your headache is naaaasty…

This wouldn’t happen, simply because the generic and brand name manufacturers are subject to the exact same requirements and laws regarding tamper-proof packaging and, in fact, every aspect of their formulation, development, manufacturing, distribution and pharmacokinetics. There is nothing inferior about the quality, safety or effectiveness of generic products or their packaging.

Huh, interesting. Good to know, thanks mnemosyne!

Of course you should just use it. You’re far more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the store to exchange it than from the incredibly remote possibility that someone’s tampered with that bottle of meds.

You’re also far more likely to die in a car accident than of starvation, but you still gotta go to the grocery store sometime.:stuck_out_tongue:

So you regard the tamper-proofing, practically speaking, as useless? Statistics are only important in analyzing trends and predicting probabilities. That’s fine for seeing the big picture, but you have to remember you’re not a statistic, but a vector. It’s there because there are fucked up people in this world, and before, I was thinking, they’re pretty useless because if some fucked up sociopath wants to tamper with ingestible goods, he’ll find a work around. After this poll, it’s giving me the sense that most people would largely ignore a very small breach, or dismiss it as a failure in factory QC.

I feel if you notice something off, despite the incredibly remote chances of actual poison tampering, you should toss it / exchange it.

The problem with me is that if I reached for that new bottle of Tylenol and the seal was already torn, my first thought wouldn’t be “Oh no, someone has tampered with this.” It would be, “Huh, I guess I already opened this.”

Tamper resistant seals aren’t useless in the same way locking your car doors isn’t useless. Their very existence makes it harder to do something nefarious.

Yep. But, if widely ignored, most wouldn’t notice a very small breach, like a needle puncture. I’d even argue that anyone who’s nefarious enough to even consider it, might take up the seals as some sort of twisted challenge.

You have a good point. Especially if you don’t live alone, you might think your SO already opened it. That’s a trick that’d only work if the seal was almost completely removed and disposed of. If it was a small breach you happened to notice, which wouldn’t allow you access to the pills, I’d stop in my tracks and think for a sec before going further.

I had a temp job at a factory that made generic drugs. I worked in the OTC part. It would be so easy to tamper with the pills at the factory.

I do make sure my pills are still tamper resistant evident. I also count my prescriptions too. I have found them to be off at least five times. But I guess that isn’t too bad. They were only off one or two pills. Oddly enough I’ve never been over, just short.

That occurred to me as well. It’s one thing to tamper, but another thing to not get caught… There must be some serial number tracking system in place to track down the dates of particular batches, then it’d only be a matter of the authorities to round up factory workers and run an investigation. No?

Still… people would be dead. But it seems most serial killers have an aversion for getting caught.

Huh, I never thought to do that. So there’s certainly a good amount of skimming going on. Have you ever reported it?

Every ingredient - active and inactive - every bit of packaging, every piece of equipment used (down to the balances and timers), every analyst and product handler…every step of the process from manufacturing of raw materials to making the drug product through to sending the final product out the door is tracked, recorded, documented and traceable. Drugs have a lot number written on them; the file for that lot number contains all that information, and manufacturers are required to retain those records for a minimum of 7 years (IIRC). Several lots a year are also analyzed in-house further for on-going stability verification testing, and if any bottle of a lot is returned it will be analyzed and if it is out-of-specification (or contaminated) there are procedures in place to isolate the cause and perhaps trigger a recall if necessary.

All of this is part of what is known as (current) Good Manufacturing Practices/Good Laboratory Practices (©GMP/GLP). The enforcement of these rules, regulations and guidelines is done by the FDA or equivalent, and the applicable laws are a matter of federal criminal law. My name, signature and initials are available for the FDA to review in order to track every bit of work I did in the 4 years I worked in the industry.

Would it have been possible for Markxxx to have tampered with pill bottles coming off the line where he worked? Yes. Some might have made it to the shelf or to a patient, too. Some might have made their way to the quality control lab, and the problem would have been found in release testing. But the lot number on the bottle would be enough to identify every worker that had ever dealt with that lot, and the date, time, machinery and staff involved in it’s final packaging is known. I’m not sure he would get away with it (unless you start getting into conspiracies with QC analysts, etc etc but then you’re in a bad TV movie, not a real place!)

Wow, that’s actually a more comprehensive protocol than I would’ve thought. Thanks, mnemosyne.