“Phantom” Motrin Recall Prompts Lawsuit

Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit has been hit with a lawsuit by the state of Oregon over what some have characterized as a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">“secret” Motrin recall. According to The New York Times, the Oregon attorney general contends that McNeil initiated a Motrin buyback in 2009 to avoid the negative publicity that would have accompanied a formal recall from store shelves.

As we’ve reported previously, 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 the 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. McNeil finally recalled 88,000 packages of the drug in July 2009 after the federal regulators learned of the purchase effort.

“It would be a disaster if these kinds of phantom recalls became an acceptable business practice,” Oregon Attorney General John R. Kroger told The New York Times. “The real significance is to send a message to pharmaceutical companies and other companies that make medical products that they have to do proper recalls that give consumers real notice.”

The Oregon Motrin lawsuit claims that the problems with the Motrin pills were more extensive than McNeil has acknowledged, and extended to certain 24-count packages of Motrin as well as those containing eight-count vials. The complaint accuses Johnson & Johnson and McNeil of violating the state’s unlawful trade practices act by misrepresenting the effectiveness and quality of the Motrin in question. It also accused the company of failing to disclose to consumers that the Motrin might have been ineffective.

If McNeil is found liable, it could be fined up to $25,000 for each container of defective Motrin sold to a consumer in Oregon.

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