American Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (AIPS)

Johnson & Johnson Sued by Oregon Claiming Secret Motrin Recall Risked Harm

Johnson & Johnson, after recalling more than 40 types of medicines last year, was sued by Oregon over claims it put consumers at risk by secretly removing defective Motrin painkiller from store shelves. 
Attorney General John Kroger said Johnson & Johnson sought to avoid negative publicity with a plan to covertly buy up supplies of the defective product from retailers instead of conducting an open recall. The complaint, filed yesterday in state court in Portland, seeks restitution for all Oregon purchases of Motrin, plus unspecified damages. 

“Companies that break the rules and put consumers at risk will be held accountable,” Kroger said today in a statement on the suit, which accuses J&J of unlawful trade practices. 
J&J, the world’s biggest maker of health-care products, recalled the medicines because of contamination and inaccurate labeling. The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company became the target of government investigation after it was forced to suspend operations at its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit’s Pennsylvania plant following a recall of children’s Tylenol. 

The probe uncovered the company’s attempt to use contractors to buy 88,000 packages of faulty drugs without notifying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

“McNeil’s actions were consistent with applicable law and there was no health or safety risk to consumers associated with this limited recall,” Marc Boston, a spokesman for the J&J unit in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, said in an e-mailed statement. “As there is no legal basis for the claims advanced by Oregon, we intend to seek dismissal of the complaint.” 

‘No Mention’ 

The Motrin tablets, which didn’t dissolve properly, were sold in eight-caplet and 24-caplet containers at gas stations, truck stops and convenience stores, according to the complaint. McNeil allegedly hired contractors to go into stores in early 2009 and secretly purchase the supplies, according to the complaint. 

Oregon’s complaint cited an excerpt from company documents, in which J&J allegedly instructed contractors that “You should simply ‘act’ like a regular customer while making these purchases. There must be no mention of this being a recall of the product.” 
The case is Oregon v. Johnson & Johnson, Circuit Court, Multnomah County (Portland).

Sophia Pearson
January 11 2011
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