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Search Continues For Tainted Capsules

March 24, 1986

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ An association of over-the-counter drug manufacturers today raised to $900,000 the reward for information leading to the conviction of drug tamperers as the search for contaminated capsules of three recalled products continued.

John T. Walden, senior vice president of a drug industry group called the Proprietary Association, announced the association had set up a toll-free phone line, 1-800-222-3081, to receive confidential information on product tampering.

Walden defended the industry’s use of capsules as did the head of the federal Food and Drug Administration, Frank Young, who also appeared on CBS Morning News today.

″There is no such thing as tamper-proof medicine,″ said Young. ″And capsules have advantages - they are time-released and you can see through them″ which could help detect tampering.

″They (capsules) aren’t more of a threat. The consumer will decide if they want them,″ said Walden.

The FBI found rat poison in capsules of Contac, Teldrin and Dietac in Houston and Orlando, Fla., on Friday and Saturday, said Jack Martin, a spokesman for the FDA.

SmithKline Beckman Corp. pulled the products from the market last week after a caller identifying himself as ″Gary″ said he tampered with the drugs to force the Philadelphia-based drug manufacturer to stop producing capsules.

Walden said the association raised the reward on drug tamperers from the $200,000 offered by New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson Co. when its Extra Strength Tylenol capsules were tainted with cyanide, causing a New York woman’s death last month.

Information is being sought on this year’s cases as well as the Chicago- area Tylenol-tampering cases which led to seven deaths in 1983, he said.

Young said authorities are no closer to determining who is responsible for the nine tainted capsules found over the weekend.

An FBI spokesman who refused to give his name said the investigation was continuing.

″The focus now is the FBI search for the criminal,″ SmithKline spokesman Alan Wachter said Sunday. ″We’re helping the FBI anyway we can. But the FBI has asked we refer all aspects of the criminal portion of the case to them.″

Contac is a top-selling cold remedy; Dietac, a weight-loss drug; and Teldrin, an allergy drug.

SmithKline reported thousands of calls to a toll-free phone number handling refund requests from customers who had purchased the capsules since March 15.

″If they had any doubt at all, they should just throw it away,″ Wachter said. ″It’s not necessary for them to send it back, just call and tell us.″

In phone calls to news organizations and SmithKline officials, ″Gary″ said he had inserted rat poison and cyanide into the products sold in Houston, St. Louis, Chicago and Orlando.

Traces of warfarin, an anti-coagulant and the active ingredient in rat poison, were found in six capsules of Contac, two of Teldrin and one of Dietac in Houston and Orlando, Martin said. No injuries have been reported.

Initial reports indicated the poison would sicken a person, but Wachter said the FDA and SmithKline physcians now believe the small amounts of poison found in the capsules probably would go unnoticed by a consumer. The concentrations of the warfarin found so far were less than 1 percent, Wachter said.

No cyanide has been discovered.

″We can’t say there is no cyanide,″ Wachter said. ″We haven’t discovered it.″

SmithKline officials said they will eventually reintroduce the products, probably later this year, but that it is not clear whether the company will continue manufacturing capsules.

″We can’t say what form Contac will be in,″ Wachter said. ″We haven’t made that decision yet.″

SmithKline President Henry Wendt said none of the contamination occurred during the manufacture of the drugs in Philadelphia.

The three drugs account for less than 3 percent, or about $100 million, of the company’s $3.4 billion in annual sales, Wendt said.

Last month, Johnson & Johnson recalled 22 million packages of Tylenol capsules and stopped manufacturing them.

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