Latest Tylenol recall hints at rolling recalls

Johnson & Johnson's latest Tylenol oops--an additional 21-lot product recall--raises the ugly specter of whether health officials and the public are being played by the drug giant.

J&J's McNeil division says packaging materials for Children's Tylenol meltaways, Benadryl allergy ultratabs, Motrin IB and other OTC meds distributed in the U.S. and the Caribbean may be contaminated. The precautionary recall stems from a "continuing internal review" that finds some of the materials had been shipped and stored on the same type of wooden pallet that the drugmaker fingered in the initial musty odor recall late last year. The company linked the odor to trace amounts of 2,4,6-tribromoanisole, the byproduct of a wood preservative.

"This rolling blackout could be the result of FDA diving into a badly broken systemic failure," writes Donald Riker, president at On Point Advisors, in OTC News. "However, a more cynical view would be that J&J has micromanaged the recall to optimize its inventory pipeline. In theory, a rolling process might buy more time and minimize cost exposure while putting the consumer in the back seat."

The company provides no explanation for why the recent discovery--a straightforward recordkeeping matter--follows by more than half a year the initial, related recall. J&J also strained credibility last month in one of its several recall expansions by saying it had "inadvertently omitted" four lots of Benadryl allergy pills and one lot of Extra Strength Tylenol from the products listed in the January recall. Another oddity: the December 18 recall of six million bottles of Tylenol arthritis caplets follows by six weeks an early-November five-lot foreshadowing recall. And an additional ten days went by, until December 28, before the FDA issued its more widely seen medical alert for the contaminated pills.

- see the OTC News article
- here's the J&J release for the most recent recall