from USA Today…
Recalls of more than a dozen types of antacids — including brand names such as Rolaids, Pepcid and Mylanta — have left store shelves empty, retailers scrambling to increase production of store-brand knockoffs and consumers wondering what’s going on.
And relief may not come soon.
A string of recalls throughout 2010 all involved Johnson & Johnson products. Recalled Pepcid products are slowly being restocked, but others are out indefinitely, pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The recalled products’ absence also has put pressure on competitors — such as Tums and store brand antacids — to ramp up production to keep up with increased demand.
“The Kroger brand has experienced a significant increase in demand — a significant enough increase that at times we’ve struggled to keep up in terms of supply,” says John Elliott, a spokesman with Kroger, which just last month created its own Rolaids-equivalent brand in response to the recalls.
In addition, the grocer stepped up production of store brands that were competitors to the other recalled Johnson & Johnson products.
At CVS, the drugstore chain is unabashedly promoting its own brand.
An empty shelf at its Fortville, Ind., location, where Pepcid AC should have been, instead had a sign that read: “Looking for Pepcid AC products? Try CVS/pharmacy Brand for the same great results.”
Joe Culp, a three- to four-times-a-week antacid user, did just that.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t find a recalled brand. He couldn’t even find his favorite variety of competitor Tums.
“The shelves were a little bit empty,” said Culp, who lives in Indianapolis. “Instead of Tums, I had to buy generic.”
In less than four months, 18 antacids have been recalled for various reasons.
In the case of Mylanta’s November recall, packaging neglected to note alcohol in its flavoring agents.
Rolaids’ December recall followed consumer reports of foreign materials in the product, including metal and wood particles. Pepcid’s August recall was initiated because of a potential risk of bottles being punctured during the packaging process.
Just last week, Pepcid appealed to customers on its website.
“We apologize for the inconvenience this may be causing you and assure you we are working diligently to get your products back as quickly as possible.”
Marc Boston, a spokesman with McNeil Consumer Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson’s largest consumer unit, said the company has posted openly and honestly about the recalls on each brand website.
At Pepcid, for example, “it not only tells you which products are available but also at which online and local market retailers you can find the products,” he said.
Plenty of people are looking.
A recent study found that 1 in 10 people buys an antacid at least once a month. Sales of antacids nationwide jumped 7% in 2010, pulling in $1.2 billion, according to Drug Store News, a publication on the pharmaceutical industry.
The top three brands in terms of market share: Prilosec OTC, with $288.5 million in sales; Zantac 150, with $72.7 million; and Pepcid Complete, with $53.9 million.
That makes the recalls even more worrisome for brands such as Rolaids and Mylanta, which began losing ground after prescription-only Prilosec and Zantac began offering over-the-counter varieties.
And then there are the store brands, which even before the recalls were taking sales from some of the national brands.
The recall has only bolstered that trend.
“If you’ve got a customer who would normally buy a 20-pack of a brand, and they’ve all been recalled, they are going to buy the store brand,” Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi said.
18 antacids involved in recalls
Here are products that have been recalled and how to find out when they will be available.
- Rolaids Extra Strength Softchews, Wild Cherry.
Rolaids Extra Strength Softchews, Cherry.
- Rolaids Extra Strength Plus Gas Softchews, Tropical Fruit.
- Rolaids Multi-Symptom Plus Anti-Gas Softchews, Tropical Fruit.
- Details: Consumer reports of foreign materials in the products, including metal and wood particles, prompted a voluntary recall. McNeil-PPC had determined that the materials were potentially introduced into the product during manufacturing at a third-party facility.
To learn more: www.rolaids.com/page.jhtml?id=rolaids/include/recall_dec.inc
- Pepcid Complete chewable tablets, 50-count Tropical Fruit.
- Original Strength Pepcid AC tablets, 90-count.
- Reason for recall: According to Johnson & Johnson and Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals, a small number of bottles were punctured during the packaging process, prompting a voluntary recall. This is not a consumer-level recall but is at the wholesaler and retailer levels.
- Details: www.pepcid.com/product-availability; www.pepcid.com/news
- Mylanta Regular Strength Original, 12-ounce.
- Mylanta Original, 5-ounce.
- Mylanta Regular Strength Mint, 12-ounce.
- Mylanta Maximum Strength Cherry, 12-ounce.
- Mylanta Maximum Strength Mint, 12-ounce.
- Mylanta Maximum Strength Original, 12-ounce.
- Mylanta Maximum Strength Original, 24-ounce.
- Mylanta Ultimate Strength Mint, 12-ounce.
- Mylanta Ultimate Strength Cherry, 12-ounce.
- Mylanta Supreme Tasting with Calcium Cherry, 12-ounce.
- Mylanta Supreme Tasting with Calcium Cherry, 24-ounce.
- Alternagel, 12-ounce.
- Reason for recall: After consulting with the FDA, Johnson & Johnson and Merck initiated a recall of 12 Mylanta products after an internal review found that information about the presence of alcohol from flavoring agents (less than 1%) was not noted on the packaging. This is a wholesale- and retail-level recall.
- Details: www.mylanta.com/news.
Source: Company news releases
The Indianapolis Staris a Gannett-owned media company.