Lawsuit Filed Over J&J’s Recalled Children’s Medicines

Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit’s recent<""> recalls of children’s over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are generating more heat. The recalls are already the subject of an investigation of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has also launched a criminal probe into McNeil’s actions.

Now, writes Business Week, J&J has been sued by U.S. consumers accusing the drug giant of fraud and racketeering and are calling for the return of cash for money spent on recalled children’s cold and allergy drugs. Five complaints are seeking a class action—group—status, just filed in a Chicago federal court after the plaintiffs rejected an offer by McNeil Consumer Healthcare and McNeil- PPC Inc., units of J&J, said Business Week.

The reason for the rejection? The offer was for refund coupons, not cash and, according to the complaints, the coupons have no worth because the medications involved are no longer made by McNeil and the offer “wrongly assumes that all consumers will want to purchase the company’s children’s products at some uncertain future date,” quoted Business Week. Of note, the complaints indicate that customers who completed or discarded the drugs and who don’t have receipts will not be eligible for the coupons.

Over 40 pediatric pain and allergy medications were recalled on April 30 because of issues with quality and potency, including children’s versions liquid Tylenol, Motrin, and Benadryl, said Business Week. Prior, in January, J&J recalled other OTC drugs over the potential of chemical contamination; the chemical was discovered on materials used to ship and store the drugs, noted Business Week.

At that time, the FDA issued a warning to J&J saying that the drug giant waited over one year to advise regulators following customer complaints of illnesses linked to its drugs, said Business Week. That recall was expanded last month to include drug lots it said it “inadvertently omitted”; yet another recall was issued last week for additional medications, explained Business Week.

U.S. Representative Edolphus Towns (Democrat-New York) accused the firm—during a House oversight committee investigation—earlier this year of initiating a “phantom recall” of its Motrin products in August 2008, saying that J&J implemented the recall as a way to pull back large amounts of the 88,000 packages without having to advise regulators, according to Business Week. Likewise, consumers said the drug maker’s production of defective products, followed by the use of contractors to recover the products, pointed to a “cover up” by a “criminal enterprise,” which called for the finding of racketeering and called for a punitive damage award, said Business Week.

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