McNeil's Fort Washington plant won't resume production until 2013

McNeil Consumer Healthcare of Fort Washington is laying off 300 of the recall-idled plant's 400 workers. (Charles Fox / Staff Photographer)

Johnson & Johnson chief executive officer Bill Weldon said Tuesday morning that the McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant in Fort Washington, Montgomery County, won't resume production until at least 2013.

McNeil is a subsidiary of J&J, which is headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J. J&J has other divisions in the Philadelphia area and is trying to complete the acquistion of West-Chester based medical device manufacturer Synthes, Inc. The $21.3 billion deal would be the largest in J&J's history.

The plant was closed in April of 2010 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had to intervene following several production problems. There were complaints of musty odors, later attributed to disinfectants used on shipping pallets, and tiny metal particles in some products.

Weldon said the company was optimistic about the progress of the improvements underway and that consumer products, including the iconic line of Tylenol medicines, would increase on store shelves through 2012, albeit after production in plants in Lancaster and Las Piedras, Puerto Rico.

"A big part of our Consumer [Division] story in 2011 and going into 2012 is the recovery and remediation of the McNeil Consumer Healthcare business," Weldon said during a meeting with Wall Street analysts. (Reporters could listen via conference call, but could not ask questions.)

"We've achieved all major commitments to date under our consent decree with the FDA and we are working closely with FDA officials to ensure we can get high-quality products back to our loyal customers who need them," Weldon said. "Several key products have returned to the market, such as Tylenol Severe Cold Caplets and certain children's and infant Tylenol brands.

"We expect volumes will continue to ramp up and anticipate that key products will be re-introduced throughout 2012. We've also been focused on how we can improve the products we are bringing back. In 2011, we introduced new flow-restrictor packaging to the industry for children's medicine. We've started new dosing instructions for certain Tylenol products to ensure safe and appropriate use of our medicines and we are in the process of rebuilding Fort Washington into a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, which we anticipate opening next year. We will continue to invest in market support as we deliver a steady supply of our OTC brands back into the market."

J&J's press release, filed as part of its 8-K submission to the Securties and Exchange Commission is here. The condensed consolidated statement of earnings is here