Johnson & Johnson, after recalling more than 40 types of medicines last year, was sued by Oregon recently over claims it put consumers at risk by secretly removing defective Motrin painkiller from store shelves. Attorney General John Kroger said Johnson & Johnson sought to avoid negative publicity with a plan to covertly buy up supplies of the defective product from retailers instead of conducting an open recall. The Complaint, filed in state court in Portland, seeks restitution for all Oregon purchases of Motrin, plus unspecified damages. Johnson & Johnson is accused of unlawful trade practices. J&J, the world’s largest maker of health-care products, recalled the medicines because of contamination and inaccurate labeling.
The New Brunswick, N.J.-based company became the target of government investigation after it was forced to suspend operations at its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit’s Pennsylvania plant following a recall of children’s Tylenol. The probe uncovered the company’s attempt to use contractors to buy 88,000 packages of faulty drugs without notifying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The Motrin tablets, which didn’t dissolve properly, were sold in eight-caplet and 24-caplet containers at gas stations, truck stops and convenience stores. It was reported that J&J hired contractors to go into stores in early 2009 and secretly purchase the supplies. Oregon’s Complaint cited an excerpt from company documents, in which J&J instructed contractors thusly: “You should simply ‘act’ like a regular customer while making these purchases. There must be no mention of this being a recall of the product.” That was a slick way by the company to recall the products without actually having to recall them.
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