J&J recalls could continue to annoy pharmacists

    It has been a year since the Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant in Fort Washington, Pa., closed due to widespread manufacturing defects. But recalls for medications made there continue.

    This week, more than 30,000 bottles of Tylenol eight-hour caplets made there were pulled from shelves due to a musty smell. The problem, which led to recalls in October as well, is the latest to spur a slew of recalls of Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin, Sudafed and Rolaids.

    Robert Frankil, who owns pharmacies in Montgomery and Bucks counties, didn’t have any of the recalled medications on his shelves this time around. But he said the steady stream of recalls is getting old.

    “It has been nothing short of a big problem,” Frankil said.

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    He has had to add more generics and different brands to his inventory after recalls left his shelves bare. The problems are taking a toll on his bottom line.

    “McNeil simply can’t supply the products that the people want,” Frankil said. “I had to have my wholesalers come in and redo my shelves because there were so many empty spaces.”

    Most over-the-counter medications are designed to be very stable, said Daniel Hassar, professor of pharmacy at University of the Sciences. Their shelf lives are much longer than food or drinks.

    “Those dates typically are for a much shorter period of time, whereas for non-prescription medications typically the expiration dates are expressed in terms of years,” Hassar said, usually about two to five years.

    After that, drugs can start to lose their potency; in some cases, they can become harmful to take. That means drugs made at the Fort Washington plant could remain on the shelves or in medicine cabinets for a long time. If new problems at the plant continue to be discovered as the FDA monitors revamping efforts, pharmacists said recalls could theoretically continue for years.

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