Faulty Meds Phantom Recall

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Friday, October 1, 2010 - 9:44am

Drug company's quiet buyback of Motrin and other meds angers lawmakers.

Executives from Johnson & Johnson and the Food and Drug Administration faced tough questions on Capitol Hill Thursday about a so-called "phantom" recall of the painkiller Motrin and whether federal regulators should have done more to stop it.

One of the most well-known and trusted brand names in America, Johnson & Johnson is a massive company that makes everything from baby lotion to artificial hips.

That trust has taken a hit with recent recalls, including millions of bottles of Liquid Infant and Children's Tylenol and other medicines.

"I know that we let the public down," said Johnson & Johnson chairman and CEO William Weldon. "We did not maintain our high quality standards and as a result children do not have access to our important medicines."

At issue with lawmakers is the fact that the company learned certain lots of Motrin tablets weren't as effective as they should be and hired outside contractors to go into stores and buy up all of the affected medicine, without telling the public.

"If the product was not good enough or safe enough to sell, why would it be good enough for consumers to keep in their homes?" asked Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings.

"We had looked at this closely and determined there was no risk, no safety hazard no risk to patients who consumed these products," Weldon replied.

Legislators also wanted to know what the Food and Drug Administration knew about Johnson & Johnson's efforts to hide the recall.

"It did not disclose the phantom part of the phantom recall," the FDA's Dr. Joshua Sharfstein testified.

The FDA's deputy commissioner admitted the agency did not do all it should have done, but used the opportunity to point out the FDA lacks authority to mandate recalls.

"All of us want to be responding much faster in some cases and even what happened here," Dr. Sharfstein said.

A limited supply of Children's Tylenol will resume shipping next week, but whether the public remains loyal to Johnson & Johnson remains to be seen.

There have been no reports of serious injury linked to the recalled medicines.

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