Drug maker Johnson & Johnson now faces a class-action lawsuit over recalled children’s medication, which was filed on behalf of consumers who say that the company botched attempts at compensating customers who paid for the defective drugs.
Five children’s medication lawsuits were filed by six different consumers last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Illinois. The lawsuits accuse Johnson & Johnson of fraud and racketeering, saying that the company failed to recall the drugs properly and did not do enough to allow consumers to recover losses. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the Johnson & Johnson lawsuits.
The initial McNeil Healthcare children’s medication recall on April 30 affected 40 different liquid medication products, including Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin and Zyrtec. McNeil is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
The recall affected 136 million bottles of children’s medications, and resulted in the shutdown of the company’s Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania, plant, and the suspension of the production of all of McNeil’s children medications. Following that recall, the FDA has received nearly 800 complaints, including at least seven reports of deaths associated with the medication. However, the FDA says its investigations so far have not directly linked any of the recalled products to any of the deaths.
According to the complaints, Johnson & Johnson only provided coupons to consumers who purchased recalled drugs. However, since the company has, at least temporarily, discontinued the recalled products, the coupons are discounts on drugs that currently do not exist. In addition, the lawsuits note that by handing out the coupons, Johnson & Johnson assumes consumers would want to purchase their products again at some point in the future, which may not be the case.
The lawsuits also quote allegations by U.S. lawmakers that the company has conducted “phantom recalls” of bad products, by having contractors remove potentially defective products from store shelves without notifying the FDA or consumers that there was a problem. This charge was leveled against the company at a recent hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Edolphus Towns.
Some lawmakers, who have started a congressional investigation into Johnson & Johnson’s drug manufacturing activities, are now pushing for expanded FDA power to force drug recalls to help the agency quickly deal with future drug contamination problems.