The head of the Food and Drug Administration yesterday said he will decide in two to four weeks whether there should be a ban on the sale of capsules used for over-the-counter drugs.
Dr. Frank E. Young, saying he was "not leaning towards anything at this time," told reporters that he planned to meet with a broad array of interested parties -- from drug manufacturers and pharmacists to doctors and consumer groups -- before he decides what steps, if any, he should take as a result of the recent Tylenol poisoning.
On Feb. 8, a New York woman died after taking an Extra-Strength Tylenol capsule that had been laced with cyanide. The tamper-resistant seals on the bottle that contained the capsule and on another bottle purchased one and a half blocks away did not appear to be broken.
Tylenol's maker, Johnson & Johnson Co., decided to stop manufacturing all over-the-counter drugs made in capsule form, but other drug firms have said they will continue to produce capsules.
FDA Commissioner Young declined to say whether he felt a ban on capsules was necessary. He did say he still was in the fact-finding stage and that he needed two weeks to a month before fowarding his decision to the secretary of Health and Human Services.
In the meantime, Young said he expected to see an increase in food- and drug-tampering incidents. "Anything that is suspect at all will, and should, be reported to the FDA," he said. The FDA also is investigating reports of glass slivers in Gerber baby food and other tampered medicine.
"Anything can be tampered with," Young said. "It is important for each of us to look at the medicine -- to look at the package, to look at the capsule or tablet, its color and alignment."
Young made his remarks after a two-hour private meeting with representatives of 15 consumer groups. Although consumer groups have in the past repeatedly pressed the government for more regulation, in this case, they declined to call for a ban on capsules, said William Schultz, an attorney with Public Citizen Litigation Group.