“Phantom Recall” of Motrin by McNeil Consumer Healthcare in 2009

Even after the recent string of product recalls, including a massive May 2009 recall of over 40 children’s medications, for McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson, the bad news keeps piling up.

This blog has been covering the expansive May 2009 recall and recently reported on the Congressional investigation and the May hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform. Consumers can watch a webcast of the hearing and access related documents and links from the committee’s public website.

But McNeil’s headache appears far from over. The committee’s investigation turned up a McNeil internal memorandum, dated June 12, 2009, wherein the company sent out orders to contracted agents to go into stores and pharmacies and buy up a tainted Motrin product, Motrin IB Caplet 8 ct. Vial. McNeil dubbed the project the “CSCS Motrin Purchase Product,” and apparently attempted to effectuate the buy-up procedure in lieu of any public notice or official product recall. Apparently the FDA eventually became aware of McNeil’s efforts, and McNeil went along with an official Class 2 recall that was then initiated. Still, it is unclear to the FDA and to the House committee whether McNeil ever made any effort to alert the public of the Motrin issue at the time.

The House committee is less than pleased about the memo, and committee Chairman Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY) sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson CEO, William C. Weldon, requesting that the company produce documents related to the “phantom recall” by June 7, 2010.