The nation's over-the-counter drug makers asked the federal government yesterday to require tamper-resistent packages for their products in the wake of last month's poisoning of Tylenol capsules in Chicago, but they said the method of doing it should be left to individual manufacturers.
At the same time, two major drug outlets in the Washington area -- Giant Food Inc. and People's Drug Stores -- said new shipments of their own house brands of over-the-counter capsules will be in sealed packages so that customers can easily see if they have been tampered with. Dr. David Richman of Giant said the new packages should be on the chain's shelves within two weeks.
Johnson & Johnson, whose McNeil Consumer Products subsidiary manufactures Tylenol, said it is evaluating several ways of making its packages tamper-resistent but declined to reveal what method it is likely to pick. Tylenol, the nation's best-selling over-the-counter pain killing drug with an estimated 37 percent of the billion-dollar-a-year market, was pulled off the market after seven deaths were blamed on capsules tainted with cyanide. Even though McNeil has been absolved of blame in the deaths, the New Jersey firm said it would not sell any more Tylenol in capsules until all of the capsules can be packaged in tamper-resistent containers.
The move by the Proprietary Association, a trade group of over-the-counter drug makers, appeared aimed at restoring public confidence in the entire $6 billion-a-year industry. Sales of all nonprescription drugs reportedly have slumped nationwide as consumers reacted with apprehension to reports of the Tylenol-connected deaths.