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Doctor, Do I Need to Worry about Big McNeil Medicine Recall?

The Pediatric Insider © 2010 Roy Benaroch, MD

Niyazi wants my take on The Big McNeil Recall: “What do you think about the recent recall by McNeil for Tylenol, Motrin, etc.? Is it something that we need to worry about at this time?”

As you’ve heard, dozens of children’s liquid medicines manufactured by McNeil (owner by Johnson & Johnson) have been recalled. Dozens of products have been affected, including both the children’s and infant’s forms of Motrin, Tylenol, and Zyrtec. There’s even a separate website for parents to request refunds.

So what’s the danger? Honestly, I don’t know. The efforts of my crack research team have not turned up any useful details, so it’s impossible to know what really happened. The company is claiming that the products may have been too strong or too weak, or that they may have contained miniscule particles of some kind. There seems to be no implication that the products were actually unsafe, or that anyone has been harmed. Perhaps more details will emerge later.

This has certainly has blown a new hole in J&J’s reputation. It’s the third major recall since August, for a problem unrelated to the prior two issues. For those of you who had felt that name brands are always better or more reliable than generics, you might want to give the less expensive alternatives a try.

In fact, why not take this chance to get rid of most of the worthless items in your medicine cabinet for good? Simplify! Here’s a complete list of medications that ought to be in your home for your children:

  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl, or a generic alternative) for hives or other allergic reactions
  • ibuprofen, for fever or pain (over 6 months of age)
  • acetaminophen, for fever or pain (under 6 months of age). I’ve discussed choosing between ibuprofen and acetaminophen before.
  • hydrocortisone ointment for itchy rashes

If your child has seasonal or perennial allergies, you might want to keep some generic cetirizine or loratidine (Zyrtec or Claritin) around, too. Notice: no “cold” medicines– they don’t work anyway– and no weird combos that make you squint to figure out what’s really in them.

I like some non-medicines for everyday symptoms too, like honey for cough past age one, saline for snot, popsicles for sore throats, and a heating pad for belly aches or ear pain. Bet you won’t hear about any popsicle recalls any time soon! 


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