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Consumer Confidential: FDA pulling cold pills, Verizon switching rates, Ford recalling pickups

March 2, 2011 | 10:13 am

Pillpic Here's your wherefore-art-thou Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Federal authorities are cracking down on untested cold medicines. The Food and Drug Administration says it will remove roughly 500 unapproved cold and allergy medications from the market as part of an ongoing probe into ineffective prescription drugs. The FDA requires companies to submit all new prescription drugs for scientific review before they are launched. However, thousands of drugs predate the FDA's drug regulations and have escaped scrutiny for decades. Most of the drugs targeted by the latest action are pills using untested combinations of decongestant and cough-suppressing ingredients. Among the medications listed by the FDA are products like Pediahist, a cold formula labeled for patients as young as 1 month old. FDA regulations do not recommend cold medicines for any children under age 2. Other drugs combine two varieties of the same ingredient, such as an allergy reliever/antihistamine. Regulators called such combinations "irrational," and warned that they could cause excessive drowsiness.

--Can you say "bait and switch"? Verizon says it will drop its unlimited data plan for the iPhone this summer and roll out tiered pricing instead. The move appears to be timed to the release of the next version of the superhot iPhone, known at the moment only as "iPhone 5." Speaking at an investment conference, a senior Verizon exec acknowledged that the company used its unlimited $30-a-month data plan to attract customers to the new Verizon iPhone. Now that those customers are aboard, the company is apparently content to slap them with tiered pricing that would charge higher fees to people who use more bandwidth.

--Ford is recalling about 35,000 pickup trucks and crossover vehicles because of possible fuel leaks and electrical shorts that could lead to fires. The automaker says the recall includes about 25,000 2010 Ranger pickups and involves fixing potential problems with the fuel line. Separately, Ford is recalling more than 9,000 trucks and crossovers to fix a software problem that could lead to an electrical short and overheating. Both problems run a risk of fire erupting, though no fires or injuries have been reported. The recall involves 2011 model years of the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers and the Ford F150, F250, F350, F450, F550 trucks.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: The FDA says some drug combinations are "irrational." Credit: Alex Nabaum / For the Times