Washington-area stores hurriedly removed their stocks of Extra-Strength Tylenol from display shelves yesterday although preliminary checks have turned up no evidence of any cyanide-contaminated Tylenol outside of Chicago.
Consumers are advised not to use any Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules until the source of the problem is found, and stores generally are not taking any chances.
"We decided to pull all of the Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules," said Joe Pollard, a spokesman for Peoples Drug Stores Inc., which has 142 stores in the Washington area. He said the decision was made after the McNeil Consumer Products Division of Johnson & Johnson expanded its recall to include two lots -- 1910 MD and MC2880 -- totaling more than 250,000 bottles.
Peoples' store managers were told to remove the entire line of Tylenol products and to refund money to customers who brought in any form of Tylenol, officials said.
Other drug outlets limited themselves to removing only capsules and tablets under the Extra-Strength Tylenol label. Drug Fair's 12 district managers used the firm's emergency telephone relay system to have all sizes of the capsules and tablets removed from the company's 185 area stores.
"We're holding all the stock in our Alexandria warehouse," said Anna Mae Garvey, a buyer coordinator for Drug Fair.
Giant's supermarkets and pharmacies initially pulled all Tylenol products on Thursday afternoon after officials heard news reports of the Chicago deaths. But yesterday, store workers put back the tablets and capsules of Extra-Strength and regular and liquid Tylenol that were not in the recalled lots, according to John Hoffman, pharmacy manager of the Giant store at 1414 Eighth St. NW.
While there was no evidence of suspect Tylenol products in Washington stores or homes late yesterday, some bottles of Tylenol lot MC2880 were found in northeastern Maryland.
Charles Trigo, an official with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the bottles were turned in to his agency by a pharmacy and a food market. Three residents in that area also notified the department they had Tylenol with that lot number in their homes.
The capsules will be analyzed by the state chemist today to determine if they have been contaminated with cyanide, Trigo said.
Trigo said the three residents and the food market manager notified his department about the bottles of Tylenol after hearing special television announcements warning listeners about the poisoned Tylenol and instructing them to call the health department if they had any of the recalled bottles in their possession.
The pharmacist with the MC2880 Tylenol was found by the department during a routine telephone survey in which officials were asked to check their stock for the two recall lot numbers, Trigo said.
Retailers weren't the only ones worried about Tylenol.
Dozens of consumers called the American Association of Retired Persons pharmacy in Washington yesterday. "They're just confused and quite upset," said pharmacist Donald Morris. "They hear Tylenol and automatically everything with that name is [thought to be] dangerous."
Hospitals also checked their stocks. At Children's Hospital in D.C., the drug is purchased in hospital packages that were not manufactured in Fort Washington, Pa., according to the hospital pharmacist.
At the Peoples Drug Store in Dupont Circle, Patricia Kennedy walked in with a container of Maximum Strength Tylenol, a type not involved in the recall. "I got these the other day, but I'm afraid now to take them," she said. Store manager James R. Yarbrough directed her to a cashier who gave her a refund.
Kennedy said she had used Tylenol tablets in the past and bought capsules for the first time this week. "That evening it was on the TV, so naturally I was terrified to take them. . . . It's a bit scary, isn't it?" she said.