Lawsuit Claims “Stealth” Tylenol Recall Caused Child’s Death

In a scathing complaint, a lawsuit claims that a controversial “stealth” Tylenol recall led to a child’s death. The lawsuit, which discusses internal company memos, states that parents allege their two-year-old son, River, died of liver failure, in July 2010, the day after he took Children’s Tylenol, said Courthouse News.

Daniel and Katy Moore, blame their son’s death on the “phantom or stealth recall” of tainted Children’s Tylenol, noting that the action was taken “so the general public, ignorant of the dangers, would continue buying and administering these brand name drugs to their children,” added Courthouse News. Defendants named include Johnson & Johnson; McNeil-PPC Inc.; McNeil Consumer Healthcare; McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, a division of McNeil PPC Inc.; Costco Wholesale Corporation; Inmar Inc.; Carolina Supply Chain Services; Carolina Logistics Services; WIS International; and eight Johnson & Johnson officials, said Courthouse News.

The complaint charges Johnson & Johnson was aware of impurities and contamination in the children’s drugs and, “yet, embarked on a ‘phantom’ or ‘stealth’ recall of these drugs to hide these problems so the general public, ignorant of the dangers, would continue buying and administering these brand name drugs to their children,” the complaint states. The Moore’s claim Tylenol destroyed their son’s liver, defendants ignored horrendous manufacturing conditions, and the drug maker implemented many product recalls, including for its infants and children’s Tylenol.

“This clandestine phantom/stealth recall was done without notification to the customers or the retailers to avoid the public shame, the financial impact and regulatory ramifications of a formal recall … the purpose of the phantom/stealth recall is evidenced in an internal email in which a McNeil executive said, ‘We are just trying to prevent a recall and a lot of expended dollars.’ “In another email, a McNeil executive described the success of the phantom/stealth recall by saying, ‘This was a major win for us as it limits the press that will be seen.’
On May 27, 2009, defendant Peter Luther sent an email approving the unethical phantom/stealth recall and instructed, ‘Let’s make this happen ASAP.’ “Defendant Luther, who defendant Weldon praised as being a loyal J&J employee, was not fired for his intimate roll [sic] in the phantom/stealth recall,” the complaint continues.

This isn’t the only time Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil unit has been caught up in a scandal involving a secret recall. In 2010, a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing into recalls of children’s Tylenol and other medicines by Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit revealed that McNeil hired contractors to buy Motrin IB caplets under orders not to mention the term “recall” after learning in November 2008 that the drugs were not dissolving properly. A memo titled “Motrin Purchase Project” instructed contractors to “on your schedule to locate and purchase” all of the Motrin eight-count packages. The document further instructed them to “act” like a regular customer in making these purchases.” Neither the public nor the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was informed of the action.

McNeil finally recalled 88,000 packages of the drug in July 2009 after the FDA learned of the purchase effort.

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