Amid tampering crisis, magazine urges caution

October 8, 2007

In its coverage of incidents of Tylenol tamperingin the 1980s, Drug Topics urged pharmacists not to panic.

The Tylenol poisonings led to rapid changes. Drug companies, led by Tylenol's manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, moved quickly to improve packaging, forever changing the face of OTCs. Some pharmacies, Drug Topics noted, pulled all Tylenol products off the shelf, while others removed only the Extra Strength capsules.

Less than a month after the deaths, Drug Topics reported that drug manufacturers were making a "big push toward package security." Not surprisingly, R.Ph. James Jackson reported that he had left shelf space vacant, waiting for the reintroduction. "I've got a lot of confidence in J&J," he remarked.

Cardinale urged pharmacists to push drug companies for safer packaging, keep OTCs under surveillance, and educate the public about safety. "Drug tampering is everyone's problem," he concluded. "But, as the keepers of drugs, pharmacists have a particular stake in increasing moves to stop it."

Keeping on top of a story that had received relatively little coverage in 1982, Drug Topics also added reports from federal officials in Washington, D.C., as well as pharmacies in New York and Chicago. FDA officials urged calm. Public Citizen's attorney concurred, telling Drug Topics that since the adoption of better packaging guidelines in the wake of the 1982 poisonings, "there is not a lot the agency can do."

Similarly, New York pharmacies reacted "quickly but calmly" and lauded J&J for offering to exchange caplets for capsules. Drug Topics reported that, in Chicago, the "nightmare of '82 is awakened." Still, even Chicago-area pharmacies acknowledged that they too realized that, like it or not, that was their new world.