Tylenol recalls, plant improvements spur shortages

| Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, 11:59 p.m.

Finding regular and extra-strength Tylenol could be a headache for shoppers at some Western Pennsylvania stores.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the division of Johnson & Johnson that produces Tylenol, is upgrading manufacturing facilities and that means a shortage of supply in some regions, the company says.

Tylenol and other products are unavailable or in short supply because the company suspended operations at its Fort Washington plant near Philadelphia and is making changes at other operations, spokeswoman Jodie Wertheim said.

“We continue to work to diligently return our brands back to store shelves,” she said.

Company officials suspended operations at the Pennsylvania plant in 2010 after more than 20 recalls of McNeil products. The company is working with the Food and Drug Administration to make improvements at the plant, including revamping the quality-control system.

The company said recalls involving regular and extra-strength Tylenol stemmed from “a small number of odor reports, including musty, moldy odor linked to the presence of trace amounts of a chemical known as 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA).”

Health risks associated with TBA can include gastrointestinal problems but typically are minimal, according to the FDA. The agency could not provide information on the number of people who reported becoming ill because of the recalled products.

Finding regular and extra-strength Tylenol in stores can be hit or miss. Giant Eagle at Caste Village in Whitehall had none of either last week, and a location on the North Side had four packages of extra strength available.

Giant Eagle spokesman Dick Roberts said the company is “seeing some effects” from a slowed distribution.

“We're working closely with our counterparts at Johnson & Johnson to make as much as possible available,” he said.

Walgreens on McKnight Road had plenty of both available. A company spokesman deferred comment to McNeil.

Rite Aid on Banksville Road had a few boxes for sale.

“When the warehouse has it in stock, we make it readily available to customers,” said Rite Aid manager Bob Parenti. “There's not much we can do.”

He said no customer has had to go without Tylenol because of low supplies at the store.

“As is the case with other retailers, we are receiving reduced shipments on some of the Tylenol products still being produced. We've been in close contact with the manufacturer to minimize the impact on our store inventory,” said Eric Harkreader, Rite Aid spokesman.

He said pharmacists often refer customers to Rite Aid brand products containing the same active ingredients.

The region's hospitals report no shortage of Tylenol, according to representatives.

Consumers can visit www.McNeilConsumer.com for updates regarding product availability.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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