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Johnson & Johnson Unit Accused of “Phantom Recall”

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Defective Medications on Friday, January 14, 2011

Members of Congress have accused McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, of conducting a so-called “phantom recall” in early 2009 when it hired outside contractors to buy back supplies of defective Motrin pills. The state of Oregon has sued Johnson & Johnson over the buyback, saying it violated state law.

The buyback focused on Motrin that came in eight-pill containers after McNeil learned that the pills did not dissolve properly once swallowed, limiting its effects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found out about the buyback in July 2009, and after the FDA enquired about it, McNeil issued a recall on the remaining Motrin in eight-count bottles. The unit issued a recall on Motrin in 24-count bottles that had similar problems in February 2010.

In 2010, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated a series of McNeil product defect problems that occurred that year. During that investigation, committee members learned about the buyback program. Several members of Congress said the program was troubling because it appeared to be an attempt to take defective drugs off the shelves without alerting the public about the problem.

In the Oregon Attorney General’s lawsuit, lawyers refer to a repurchase form instructing contractors not to tell employees of the stores with the defective Motrin why the contractors were buying up all the product. Instead, the form allegedly said, contractors should say they were performing an audit.

McNeil denies wrongdoing in the buyback. An executive with Johnson & Johnson told the Oversight and Government Reform Committee that the company had told the FDA about the buyback. A spokeswoman for McNeil told the New York Times that the Oregon suit is without merit because the company followed the law during the buyback.

Source: The New York Times, “Oregon Sues J.&J. in Motrin Buyback,” Natasha Singer and Reed Abelson, January 12, 2011

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