“Phantom” Drug Recall Leads to Oregon Suit against J&J

A CNN Money article reports that the state of Oregon “has sued Johnson & Johnson for allegedly selling defective Motrin drugs to consumers in the state for more than a year, and for trying to secretly remove the faulty drugs from stores.” The Attorney General of Oregon, John Kroger, said “‘Companies that break the rules and put consumers at risk will be held accountable,’” CNN explains.

Included in the lawsuit are J&J “and its two subsidiaries, McNeil PPC Inc. and McNeil Healthcare Inc,” the article explains. CNN further reports that J&J’s “McNeil division makes over-the-counter cold and pain drugs such as Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl.”

According to the suit, in late 2008 J&J learned some of its Motrin medication batches were defective, failing to properly dissolve, the article reports. CNN explains that these drugs were sold in convenience stores and gas stations. However, the article explains, instead of initiating “a public recall of the defective Motrin products, the suit alleges that J&J hired contractors to go into stores in early 2009 and secretly buy the faulty products without telling wholesalers, retailers or consumers about the problem.”

Calling it a “phantom” recall, “the suit alleges that J&J's McNeil division did not publicly announce a recall until February 2010,” despite the Food and Drug Administration’s awareness of the issue, CNN explains. According to the news story, the public initially heard of the recall “when details of it emerged in June during a Congressional hearing addressing a series of other Johnson & Johnson recalls. “

CNN explains that after that hearing, company executives and the FDA began receiving questions about the secretive recall. However, the company maintained for months that no deceptive actions in the recall took place, CNN reports. It was not until December that the J&J CEO, William Weldon, “admitted to lawmakers… J&J secretly bought up defective drugs without informing regulators and consumers of its actions,” the article explains.

This suit, filed by the state of Oregon, alleges “that despite the secret Motrin removal, more than 787 eight-count containers of the allegedly defective Motrin remained in stores for sale in the state,” CNN reports. In addition, the article explains that J&J violated “Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act (UTPA), which prohibits companies from ‘employing unconscionable tactics, making certain false or misleading representations, or failing to disclose a fact.’”

The article continues, stating that Oregon “is suing J&J for civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation of the UTPA, which could amount to millions of dollars.” This lawsuit comes after J&J rejected a settlement “which included a payment of $725,000 by J&J to the Justice Department to settle the dispute,” CNN reports.

CNN explains that McNeil called theirs a “limited recall,” alleging their actions were “‘consistent with applicable law and there was no health or safety risk to consumers.’” The article reports that the company said they “‘intend to seek dismissal of the [c]omplaint.’”


Kavilanz, Parija. (January 13, 2011) “Oregon sues Motrin maker over secret drug recall.” Retrieved on January 14, 2011 from CNN