Issa calls for investigation of FDA in Motrin recall

A top House Republican this week urged federal investigators to look into the conduct of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials surrounding the 2009 recall of Motrin. 

Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), senior Republican on the House Oversight Committee, asked HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson Tuesday to investigate whether the FDA "purposely and improperly sought to impede and mislead a Congressional oversight investigation." 

Issa is accusing FDA officials of (1) issuing media statements "that are inconsistent with key facts;" (2) trying "to mislead Congress by omitting key facts about FDA's knowledge" of an under-the-radar Motrin recall in 2009; and (3) refusing to allow committee investigators to interview an agency employee "with clear first-hand knowledge of an FDA failure."

The "phantom recall" of Motrin began in 2009, when McNeil — a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson that makes Motrin — hired private contractors to buy up defective Motrin from retailer shelves, rather than launching a national recall, which would have been public.

"Run in, find the product, make your purchase and run out," the contractors were instructed. "There must be no mention of this being a recall of the product."

Issa and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) have both been critical of McNeil surrounding the episode. More recently, though, the lawmakers have also scrutinized the FDA over what the agency knew about the phantom recall — and when. 

The oversight panel is holding a hearing on the saga Thursday, with leaders from FDA, Johnson & Johnson and McNeil all invited to testify.