If you get the feeling Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) is recalling products every day, you wouldn't be that far from the truth. Now it's dragging Merck (MRK) with it as the two announced a recall of 12 over-the-counter Mylanta heartburn medicine liquid products as well as Alternagel liquid antacid to update product labeling.
Johnson & Johnson-Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals, a 50/50 joint venture, is recalling 12 million bottles of Mylanta and almost 85,000 bottles of its Alternagel because of the label issue. There's no mention on the products that they contain a small amount of alcohol from the flavoring agents. Certain flavoring agents, J&J explains, contribute small amounts of alcohol to the medicine. The amount of alcohol is less than 1% of the product.
While this is a wholesale and retail level recall, it is not due to adverse events, the company said. Consumers can continue to use the products.
Johnson & Johnson has been conducting a complete review of its products following massive recalls of popular over-the-counter medicines in the past year. More than 135 million bottles of over 40 of its children's medicines were recalled in late April because of manufacturing deficiencies, after which the company suspended manufacturing at its plant in Fort Washington, Pa. The joint venture's antacid products were made at this plant. Another plant in Puerto Rico also tied to the drug recalls reportedly still has quality control problems.
The recalls, which were also the subject of two Senate investigations, have tarnished the company's reputation and hurt its financial results: Sales in its consumer health care unit declined a whopping 25% in the last quarter. But things haven't improved.
Just last week, the health care giant recalled about 4 million packages of Children's Benadryl allergy tablets and some 800,000 bottles of Junior Strength Motrin, after manufacturing problems were revealed in the internal review. A day later, J&J said it is recalling nearly 9.3 million bottles of of three Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom liquid products in order to update the product labeling.
There were smaller recalls along the way, as well as a wide recall of the company's 1 Day Acuvue TruEye contact lenses in Japan, a recall of the company's cancer drug Velcade and a hip implant recall.
As the product review goes on, there may be more recalls, even though the company just started shipping some of the long-absent products. Last month, the company began shipping its children's products again, but some analysts have questioned whether parents will have the same level of trust as before.