Congress holds hearings over tainted children's medications

(NBC) - A month after Johnson and Johnson recalled more than 130 million bottles of children's medications, company executives were called to testify in front of a House oversight committee.
New allegations have emerged that the company knew of potential contamination problems related to Motrin tablets in 2008 - and tried to cover it up by buying up as much of the product as possible. It is a claim Johnson and Johnson fiercely denies as it tries to repair its damaged reputation.

What went wrong that caused one of the largest makers of children's medicine to recall millions? That is the million dollar question, and one many moms and dads have been asking since a division of Johnson and Johnson, one of the most trusted brands in America, recalled more than 40 infant and children's liquid medications because of quality problems. Those include pain relievers Tylenol and Motrin, and allergy medications Benadryl and Zyrtec.

On May 27, representatives from Johnson and Johnson and the Food and Drug Administration testified before a House oversight committee. FDA regulators say an inspection at a Fort Washington, Pennsylvania plant revealed bacterial contamination of ingredients, thick dust and grime covering equipment, and the potential for some medicines to become too potent.

"We consider these quality problems to be quite significant," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, FDA deputy commissioner. "And we want to fix them before it becomes a point where we're counting the problem in hospitalizations and injuries instead of in bottles recalled."

So far, no one has reported serious injuries from the medicines.

Colleen Goggins of Johnson & Johnson says the company has changed its leadership at the Fort Washington plant and brought in outside experts. Goggins defended the company's testing and quality control procedures.

"We did not knowingly use the products with bacteria, and we did not knowingly release them into the marketplace," said Goggins.

Those are not comforting words to many parents who have been advised to throw these medications out, and put their faith in generic brands instead.

It is unknown when production will resume at the Fort Washington plant. Johnson and Johnson will first submit a plan of action to the FDA in July.

The FDA says it's continuing a criminal investigation into the company.

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