Bloomberg: McNeil president ordered 'phantom recall'

Did McNeil Consumer Healthcare's top brass order a "phantom recall" of substandard Motrin pills? Sources are telling Bloomberg that the Johnson & Johnson unit's executives were directly involved in retrieving the drug from stores without fully notifying regulators or telling consumers.

McNeil President Peter Luther himself sent an email--obtained by Bloomberg from a source familiar with the House Oversight and Government Reform committee's probe--instructing employees to launch a proposed "market withdraw of Motrin." Contractors were hired not to "sample" Motrin stocks to determine whether faulty pills had reached stores, the source told the news service, but to buy up stores' entire stock of the product.

McNeil spokeswoman Bonnie Jacobs tells Bloomberg that the FDA was "fully informed about McNeil's plans and actions throughout the process" and that the leaked message "is consistent with what we have stated previously." J&J's consumer group chief Colleen Goggins told the Congressional committee last month that the company had not intended to mislead people in the time leading up to the official, public Motrin recall.

But a spokeswoman for the FDA, Meghan Scott, said that McNeil only told agency it would "sample" from stores where the Motrin tablets had been distributed. "They did not inform the agency that they would instruct contractors to go into stores, 'act like a regular customer,' and buy all of the product in question," Scott wrote to Bloomberg.

Given that we've seen almost daily developments in this probe of J&J's McNeil unit, more news is sure to come soon.

- read the Bloomberg news