Johnson & Johnson, buffeted by multiple recalls of over-the-counter medicines this year, said it was withdrawing 13 million packages of Rolaids soft chews after consumers reported finding metal and wood particles in the products.
While the risk of serious health effects is “remote,” consumers who have purchased Rolaids Extra Strength Softchews, Rolaids Extra Strength plus Gas Softchews, or Rolaids Multi-Symptom plus Anti-Gas Softchews should stop using the products, J&J’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit said today in a statement.
J&J, the world’s largest health products company, has recalled more than 40 medicines this year amid complaints of contamination. The withdrawals forced McNeil’s Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, plant to suspend operations and were expected to reduce 2010 sales by about $600 million, the company said in October. U.S. lawmakers have been investigating New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J’s handling of the recalls.
“The more of these events that occur, the more scrutiny they are going to get from regulators,” said Les Funtleyder, a portfolio manager at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. “They’ve already been called in front of Congress twice.”
Rolaids tablets were among 500 lots of drugs J&J pulled in January because of possible contamination with a wood chemical used in shipping and packing materials. That recall, which also included Motrin and Tylenol, expanded in June after consumer complaints of a musty odor and reports of diarrhea, nausea and vomiting among people who used the products.
McNeil in April withdrew more than 40 types of children’s over-the-counter liquid medicines because of “manufacturing deficiencies,” the Food and Drug Administration said May 1. Last month, the company recalled 4 million packages of children’s Benadryl allergy tablets and about 800,000 bottles of junior-strength Motrin after identifying manufacturing problems. Another recall last month involved one lot of Rolaids soft chews after consumers complained of an unusual consistency that was traced to crystallized sugar.
Today’s Rolaids recall involves 96 product lots and 13,037,772 packages of soft-chews, Marc Boston, a J&J spokesman said in an e-mail. The products were made by a third-party manufacturer, he said.
The latest recall “provides a troubling indication that the company continues to exhibit serious shortcomings with its quality-control procedures,” Representative Edolphus Towns, a New York Democrat, said today in an e-mail. Towns heads the House Oversight and Government Reform panel that began its investigation of J&J more than eight months ago.
Representative Darrell Issa of California, a Republican who will become chairman of the panel next year, will continue investigating “the safety protocols in place at J&J’s facilities, and how the FDA is managing food and drug safety,” Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for Issa, said in an e-mail.
McNeil has stopped making the three types of Rolaids soft chews and won’t resume production until “corrective actions have been implemented,” the company said.
Investors would welcome “a couple of months without a recall event,” Funtleyder said today in an interview. “I think investors’ expectations are pretty low at this point.”
J&J declined 39 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $62.06 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have lost 3.7 percent this year.