Procter & Gamble Co. yesterday suspended sale of Rely tampons and asked retailers to remove the product from their shelves, because of a government survey that indicates the use of Rely may be a factor in toxic shock syndrome, a disease occurring in young women.
P & G Chairman Edward G. Harness said the company "knows of no defect in the Rely tampoon." However, the company says it is halting sales of Rely because of the controversy following a public warning about the product last week by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. Representatives of P & G and other companies that manufacture tampons were scheduled to meet later this week with officials of the Food and Drug Administration, which is considering whether it should take action.
The recently recognized disease is known to have affected only a small number of women. However, its symptoms can be very severe -- a rapid drop in blood presdure, shock, high fevers, vomiting, diarrhea and a sun-burn-like rash on the fingers and toes. Twenty-five deaths have been blamed on the disease, according to the Center for Disease Control. Almost all of the victims have been young women.
CDC's research indicated that the disease is caused by a bacterium which occurs in the bodies of a relatively small percentage of women. Of 44 toxic shock patients tested during the study, 98 percent had the bacterium, compared with 7 percent of the population generally.
Of 42 patients who used only one brand of tampon, 71 percent used Rely, the CDC said, in singling out the Procter & Gamble product. Nineteen percent used Playtex tampons, 5 percent used Tampax, 2 percent used Kotex and another 2 percent used OB brand, the CDC said. It did not warn of a possible link between these other products and the disease.
Rely is a new and more compact design than the convention tampon and one unproved theory is that the tampons acts as a breeding ground for the bacterium.
If the suspension of Rely becomes permanent, the finaancial loss to P & G would amount to about $75 million after tax, the company said. It has offered to refund customers.