In the last few months I’ve kept tabs on medications recalled for quality control problems by McNeil Pharmaceuticals, as well as McNeil’s parent company Johnson & Johnson’s recalls of medications that were “musty-smelling.” Unfortunately for consumers who thought their medicine cabinets were finally safe, the musty medications have apparently still been in production. Johnson & Johnson recalled 500,000 bottles of potentially contaminated Benadryl and Extra Strength Tylenol on June 15, and on July 9 it recalled another 2.5 million bottles of medications, including Tylenol for children and adults, Benadryl allergy tablets and Motrin (ibuprofen). As a defective medication lawyer, I’m concerned about what this growing list of recalled medicines could mean for consumers, who need to know which medications are safe for them to depend on and which ones could injure or kill them.
The latest recall involves medications that smell moldy or musty because they have been in contact with 2,4,6-tribromoanisole, or TBA, a pesticide and flame retardant chemical used in pallets for shipping and storing the medicines. According to Consumer Reports, people have reported “experiencing nausea, stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea after taking the contaminated medications.” Beyond those symptoms, the longer-term health ramifications of exposure to TBA are unclear. The medications recalled in July actually represent an expansion of the late 2009 recall; they were belatedly discovered to have been part of the same group of medications. Consumer Reports did not mention a reason for the months-long delay.
It’s important to point out, from my point of view as pharmaceutical liability attorney, that there are two different kinds of problems being addressed by these recalls. That means that there’s not just one thing going wrong in Johnson & Johnson’s manufacturing plants, but a whole series of problems. While the November-January, June and July recalls relate to TBA contamination, the April and May recalls by McNeil relate to metal particles present in medications. There’s also the serious issue of McNeil’s having delayed informing the FDA of the problems until a year after the company knew about them.
The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee launched an investigation after the McNeil recalls were issued on April 30 to look into what Representative Edolphus Towns, D-NY, chairman of the oversight committee, called “wide-ranging problems at Johnson & Johnson.” This investigation might help protect consumers and get to the bottom of what caused 775 instances of “serious side effects” related to recalled McNeil drugs, including 30 deaths.
Consumers should not have to wonder whether they’re better off suffering through a headache or allergies or taking an over-the-counter medication that could make them feel even worse. That’s why the law requires drug manufacturers to warn consumers when their products aren’t safe to use as intended. As we’ve seen, McNeil and Johnson & Johnson have a spotty record of complying with that requirement. But consumers don’t have to just rely on the FDA to send warning letters and fix the problem from the top down. If a defective over-the-counter medication hurts someone who took it — expecting that it would be safe — that person can fight back against the drug manufacturer who failed to warn consumers of the drug’s potential danger. The victim can sue the manufacturer for financial compensation for their injuries.
A lawsuit can be a good idea for the victim because treating medical issues caused by defective drugs can be very time consuming. When someone has unknowingly ingested a chemical like TBA, it could take years for some of the symptoms to show up and for doctors to be able to recognize them. The time and money eaten up by ongoing medical treatments — not just from doctors’ and hospitals’ bills, but also from missing work for medical appointments and from generally feeling ill — can be substantial. Victims may also miss out on important events and milestones with family and friends if they are seriously ill because of a defective or contaminated medication. People who have been hurt in these ways can sue the drug companies that caused the harm, to recover all these costs as well as compensation for pain and suffering and lost quality of life.
If you have been harmed by a contaminated or defective medication, please call the experienced and knowledgeable dangerous medication lawyers at Carey, Danis and Lowe for a free consultation. You can reach us toll-free at 1-877-678-3400 or through our website.