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TYLENOL CAPSULE PRODUCTS ARE FROZEN AT DISTRIBUTION LEVELS: WHSLRS. AND RETAILERS HAVE STOPPED MOVING PRODUCTS, BUT ARE NOT YET RETURNING INVENTORY

Executive Summary

McKesson and LAD Drug have stopped distribution of Tylenol capsules but are holding onto stock of the product, indicating the trade's wait-and-see response to J&J's sales halt. J&J is reportedly advising whslrs. to halt sales of the Tylenol capsule products but to refrain from returning the product to the mfr. until further notice. LAD's response points out the effort to stop movement of the product to consumers without beginning shipments back to McNeil. LAD indicated that it is not taking Tylenol capsule returns from its customers. Similarly, McKesson is instructing its customers to remove the products from the shelves and to hold them in inventory. J&J Chairman James Burke told a Feb. 14 press conference that the firm is only requesting a halt of sales at the present time. He noted though that the firm would accept returns of Tylenol capsules if sent to the company. On Feb. 13, J&J recalled Tylenol capsules from one specific area, Westchester County in NY, after the cyanide-tainted capsules were discovered in a second bottle. FDA and J&J jointly examined all lots of Tylenol from a three mile radius of the A&P where the first contaminated bottle was purchased. After FDA discovered a second bottle of cyanide-containing Tylenol capsules in lab tests of the recalled products, the agency issued a "Talk Paper" and news release warning "that consumers nationwide should completely avoid Tylenol capsules of all lot numbers and strengths until further notice." FDA noted in a Feb. 14 release that it had analyzed "over 70,000 capsules . . . from the greater Yonkers area" yielding "only the additional five capsules tainted with cyanide found in the single bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol (code AHA090) described Thursday afternoon." The agency said that the second sample of cyanide, discovered in a Woolworth store in the Yonkers area, "contained 90% cyanide." The cyanide, FDA said, "is chemically identical with the potassium cyanide implicated in the death of Diane Elsroth." FDA concluded that "both samples probably have come from the same source" and that "there is still no evidence to indicate that the tainting of capsules with cyanide is anything other than a localized matter." J&J noted that a reagent grade of cyanide, not associated with that found in the tampered capsules, is used in its plants for quality control. Addressing reporters at the Feb. 14 conference, Burke said: "What we asked the trade to do is take them [capsule products] off the shelves, and what we asked the consumers to do is stop using them until further notice. That's different than a national recall and asking everybody to send them back." Burke added that J&J "will take them back if they're sent back to us, but even the last time [during the Chicago Tylenol deaths in 1982], surprisingly, there were an awful lot of people who didn't want to send them back; consumers didn't want to send them back -- trade practices didn't want to send them back." Asked why a nationwide recall wasn't initiated, Burke replied that the company does not "think that will accomplish anything at this point." He noted that all distribution had stopped and that consumers had been advised not to use the capsule products. "It may well be, as it was the last time, that a explanation will occur here that will encourage not only us but consumers to want us to continue marketing the capsule. We'll make that decision with the consumer," Burke said. He added that "part of the reason that we have decided at this point that there really isn't any great value to a national recall [is that] we don't know how to improve the tamper resistant packaging that we created." Prior to the national alert to halt sales of the products on Feb. 13, several chains removed Tylenol capsules from their shelves based on the cyanide poisoning of a New York woman Feb. 5. Among the chains immediately removing Tylenol from the shelves were Walgreen, Revco and A&P. New York-based CVS, which pulled the products from its shelves following reports of a second cyanide-tainted bottle of Tylenol Extra-Strength late Feb. 13, said it removed all capsule products manufactured by McNeil. CVS discontinued sales of Tylenol capsules, regular and extra strength, Maximum Strength Tylenol Sinus Medication, Co-Tylenol and Sine-Aid. East coast chain Peoples said it removed from its shelves all capsule products containing the name "Tylenol" the evening of Feb. 13; West coast chain Longs did the same thing. The chains are storing the capsules until further notice. By Feb. 14, several states, including New York, California, Massachusetts, Florida, Indiana, Rhode Island and Illinois, had banned the sale of Tylenol capsules. Health officials in Colorado, North Carolina and Georgia asked retailers to remove Tylenol capsules from the shelves.

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