Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Do you recall.....?

Pharmablogger loves stories of executive follies. Now, there's nothing new about the Johnson & Johnson / McNeil recalls of Tylenol products for various reasons, but pharmablogger has learned that J & J CEO William Weldon (2009 salary $25.6 million) can sit back and bask in the glow of triumph, as he seeks to make McNeil as low-cost a manufacturer as possible. You see, in one drive for economy, McNeil switched bottle manufacturers in Puerto Rico, to a company that used Brazilian pallets that were not heat-treated, but rather chemically treated, resulting in that musty smell that greeted users of Tylenol Arthritis and other products. The smell came from the interaction of the chemically treated pallets with the bottle resin. Yet, J & J came out ahead, right? After all, according to internal sources, the company saved $820,000 by switching bottle suppliers! WOW!

So if you're a J & J stockholder, you might want to let him know how much you appreciate the savings, unless you think the (currently) estimated $1.2 billion in lost sales (source: NOYB) before CAPA costs are figured in, overshadow that $820 large.

Heavy Metal Poisoning

By the way, don't be concerned too much about the metal particles in your kids' liquid Tylenol or Motrin. It's probably always been there, and heck, kids have been getting healthier every year, right?

You see, the liquid filling machines at McNeil have been washed between productions runs with 190 degree water since, well, a looooong time ago. What happens when metal heats up? That's right, it expands! And the liquid fillers have pistons which make the dowels go up and down, where they rub against other metal when expanded. But it took a packaging mechanic to notice the particles in bottles of water that were run after a maintenance service. Irony - that particular maintenance took place because the same bottle manufacturer had sent McNeil bottles that were too thin, so packaging was suspended for a while.

What about other findings from the FDA, that made the Fort Washington McNeil plant sound like a rat hole? Well, when you lay off 2/3 of your maintenance staff, you're going to get things that go unrepaired, like holes in the ceiling. Or when you lay off much of your packaging staff, and a line goes down, all you can do is re-allocate the remaining people to other lines, rather than waste precious time getting materials off the down line, where they will remain exposed to the air and get "grimy" over the course of a few hours (really?)

Then there are those skids of recalled product that were accidentally shipped back out to customers (whoopsie!) because McNeil and J & J systems don't adequately talk to each other.

I'd love to be at this week's hearings, and maybe I will be if schedules permit. Let's hope the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Senator Tom Harkin ask the right questions.

PB to ailing William Weldon: Got your back, buddy! Get well soon!