Did Activists Sabotage A Reckitt Painkiller?

Did Activists Sabotage A Reckitt Painkiller?

August 29th, 2011 // 12:27 pm @

A confusing controversy has broken out in the UK today over an unusual situation in which the Seroquel antipsychotic pill has been found in some packages of the Nurofen Plus painkiller sold by Reckitt Benckiser. And speculation has entered the media that the Nurofen packages, which are available only behind pharmacy counters, may have been sabotaged by animal-rights activists.

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So far, there is no evidence to suggest this is the cause, which was reported by The Daily Mail. The paper wrote that Reckitt uses animals to test some drugs, although not Nurofen Plus, and that an investigation is under way to determine whether a group or individual activist was behind the switch. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has asked pharmacists, meanwhile, to check their packages (read here).

But the public relations firm handling this crisis, Virgo Health, is livid over the suggestion that Reckitt has drawn the ire of animal-rights groups and believes the newspaper should help the drugmaker with its investigation if it has such info about the suspect packages. In all, packages containing about 500,000 tablets were sent to pharmacies across the UK.

“Nurofen Plus has a firm policy of not testing on animals. We don’t know where the Daily Mail got their story,” a spokeswoman tells PR Week. “This speculation is not something that we are supporting at all. That’s an avenue we’re pursuing. It can’t be ruled out, but it’s not what we’re informed.”

Given the statement placed on the Nurofen Plus web site, however, the drugmaker is clearly suggesting that some form of sabotage is to blame. “It appears that all the standard blister strips of Nurofen Plus tablets have been removed and replaced with foil sealed blister strips of another product. They look markedly different – standard Nurofen Plus blister strips are silver in colour with black text and are clearly labelled Nurofen Plus.

“Nurofen Plus and (Seroquel) are not manufactured or packaged by the same company, or in the same factory and therefore serious investigations are currently underway to establish the source of the problem. After careful review of the manufacturing system, manufacturing errors by the makers of Nurofen Plus are not thought to be part of the cause at this stage.”

And Sian Boisseau, director of Virgo Health, tells the paper that “there has been a suggestion that the packets were deliberately put in the wrong boxes. It was not discovered until the packets arrived in store. It was not in the manufacturing process or supply chain. It is not a mix-up and is still being investigated.” For the moment, the police have not been brought into the investigation. UPDATE: A Virgo Health spokeswoman writes us to the say police are now investigating and sabotage is expected, but there was no mention of animal-rights activists, specifically. Meanwhile, Nurofen Plus is now being recalled.

The Reckitt policy on animal testing states that the drug maker will “minimize the use of animals in required safety testing to the greatest extent possible while ensuring that a valid study is conducted.” Although there are exceptions, such as due to legislative or regulatory requirements, or “where no established information exists upon which an adequate determination of hazard can be made” .

In any event, the drugmaker has in the past come to the attention of various animal rights groups that claim Reckitt does conduct animal testing for some products. The web site for Uncaged lists Reckitt among companies that either “openly use animal-tested chemicals, or fail to demonstrate that the finished product and the ingredients they use have not been tested on animals since a fixed cut-off date” (see this). And various Reckitt products show up on list of companies that allegedly perform animal testing on the web site of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals .

As an aside, there is nothing about this episode on the Reckitt corporate web site, which makes it difficult for consumers, investors and others interested in this matter to readily obtain information. Similarly, there is no info on the Nurofen Plus Facebook page .

Source: Pharmalot

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