FDA Inspects Johnson & Johnson's Penn. Factory

Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson issued a recall of a number of its products. An FDA inspection found poor quality control and contamination in the plant where the products are made.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And now for a health issue involving children. Johnson and Johnson is a company with a reputation for quality, but it has just recalled a slew of medicines for kids after the Food and Drug Administration flagged numerous problems at its pharmaceutical plant in Philadelphia. And now the Washington Post is reporting that the House has launched an investigation.

NPR's Health Blogger Scott Hensley joined us to talk about that recall. Hello.

SCOTT HENSLEY: Hi, Renee. There were more than 40 different products that the company recalled, and some of them included Tylenol infant drops, from grape to cherry flavor, Tylenol, also a liquid - cherry blast was one of the flavors, a bubble gum flavor was another - and children's Motrin, similar flavor assortment, and children's Zyrtec, which, in allergy season, I think, is something people might be using more of these days. That's an antihistamine.

MONTAGNE: So again, all for kids. Remind us why Johnson and Johnson had to recall so many products.

HENSLEY: Well, the FDA just wrapped up a two-week inspection of the factory outside Philadelphia that makes a wide range of these medicines, and they found all kinds of problems, from lax quality testing to bacteria in the raw materials that the company was using, and even some dusty, grimy labs where they even found a copper pipe that had duct tape holding insulation on it. So quite a few lapses in what are considered to be the quality standards a company like J and J should uphold.

MONTAGNE: And were people at home noticing problems with this?

HENSLEY: Yes, that, too. There were more than 40 reports from consumers of dark flecks or specs in these medicines that the FDA said hadn't been resolved.

MONTAGNE: So is this as scary as it sounds when you describe it?

HENSLEY: It's disturbing. The FDA said that there's not an immediate safety hazard or safety risk for people. The worry is that the quality controls aren't strong enough for the company to know that the drugs are up to snuff, and therefore the consumers couldn't have confidence in them.

MONTAGNE: What should people do if they have some of these medicines at home? First, I guess, where would they go to find out which ones are the recalled ones, and then what to do?

HENSLEY: Right, the J and J Web site has a list of these products. Also the FDA has a lot of information on their Web site explaining what the problem is. The FDA said don't use the stuff. So that's pretty straight forward. If you've got the stuff at home, don't use it anymore. And their advice was to find generic alternatives, or medicines from other companies they you could use.

MONTAGNE: Scott, thank you very much.

HENSLEY: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Health blogger Scott Hensley. NPR is keeping up on this story, and you can find out more at Shots. That's the NPR Health Blog.

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