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What has happened to Johnson & Johnson?

Just days after the State of Oregon sued the drug giant over its "phantom" recall of over-the-counter Motrin medications, Johnson & Johnson recalled at least 45 million Tylenol products due to ongoing cleanliness problems at its Fort Washington, PA plant.

A "Phantom" Recall

In September 2010, Johnson & Johnson realized that a number of its over-the-counter Motrin medications were defective. However, instead of issuing a formal recall, the drug maker sent "phantom" buyers into stores to purchase the defective medications. However, Johnson & Johnson never warned the public and never warned those who had already purchased the defective Motrin.

Via ABC News at the time:

[Lynn Walther, who worked as a J&J contractor] said he was following the instructions he’d been given. "You should simply act like a regular customer while making these purchases," the document said. "There must be no mention of this being a recall of the product. Run in, find the product, make your purchase and run out."

Now the State of Oregon has sued Johnson & Johnson for secretly trying to remove the defective drugs during the "phantom" recall. Oregon’s attorney general filed suit against J&J and two of its subsidiaries, McNeil PPC Inc. and McNeil Healthcare Inc. These subsidiaries make Johnson & Johnson’s over-the-counter medications, such as Motrin, Tylenol and Benadryl.

Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol Recall

Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil division is also recalling an additional 45 million Tylenol, Benadryl and other over-the-counter medication products. Drugs included in the recall are:

  • Tylenol 8 Hour
  • Tylenol Arthritis Pain
  • Tylenol upper respiratory products
  • Benadryl
  • Sudafed PE
  • Sinutab

The recall stems from ongoing cleanliness problems at Johnson & Johnson’s Fort Washington, Pennsylvania plant.

DePuy Hip Recall

Johnson & Johnson is also responsible for at least 93,000 defective artificial hips. In August 2010, Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics division recalled the ASR XL Acetabular Head System and ASR Hip Resurfacing System. The DePuy hip recall occurred because the metal-on-metal construction of the ASR artificial hips permits grinding and allow metal particles or ions to enter the surrounding tissue.

History of Recalls

Johnson & Johnson products have been the subject of at least a dozen recalls in just over a year’s time. Recalls have included:

  • Motrin IB
  • Children’s Benadryl
  • Children’s Tylenol
  • Children’s Tylenol Meltaways
  • Tylenol Infant Drops
  • Tylenol Extra Strength
  • Tylenol Day & Night
  • Tylenol PM
  • Tylenol Extra Strength Rapid Release
  • Tylenol Arthritis
  • Benadryl Allergy Ultratab
  • Acuvue TruEye contact lenses
  • Zyrtec Itchy Eye Drops
  • DePuy artificial hips

Johnson & Johnson massive recalls prompted its CEO last year to admit that Johnson & Johnson "made a mistake." While I applaud the company for admitting its mistakes (something many companies refuse to do), I have to wonder when Johnson & Johnson will get its house in order. Providing a clean production facility for children’s medications seems fundamental. Yet after nearly a year, Johnson & Johnson still cannot accomplish this basic task. Identifying the problem was only the first step. Johnson & Johnson needs to do more to ensure that its products are safe for the millions of people who rely on them.

[More on Johnson & Johnson’s recalls and problems]

[More on the DePuy hip recall]

(c) Copyright 2011 Brett A. Emison

One Comment

  1. This recall keeps getting bigger and bigger. Now it's sounds like the conditions at the plant the FDA shut down were disgusting. Amazing what profits mean to some.

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