STORES VOLUNTARILY PULL OTC DRUGS CONTAINING PPA

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Numerous retailers, including Big Y Foods here, Kroger Co. in Cincinnati and Albertson's in Boise, Idaho, have voluntarily pulled any over-the-counter medications containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA), after the Food and Drug Administration issued a recent public health advisory against weight loss and cold remedies. The FDA issued the recommendation to manufacturers to stop marketing

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Numerous retailers, including Big Y Foods here, Kroger Co. in Cincinnati and Albertson's in Boise, Idaho, have voluntarily pulled any over-the-counter medications containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA), after the Food and Drug Administration issued a recent public health advisory against weight loss and cold remedies. The FDA issued the recommendation to manufacturers to stop marketing products with the ingredient such as Contact, Acutrim, Alka-Seltzer Plus and Dimetapp, due to the possible health risk of hemorrhagic strokes.

Big Y Foods last week pulled all OTC products containing PPA as a safety precaution. Dawn Panagrosso, health and beauty care manager at a store in Newtown, Conn., said the retailer wants to keep its customers, despite the loss in sales. "A lot of people have mixed feelings -- some [consumers] think something is wrong with all products in some way; some people will say 'now you tell us."' Panagrosso said she thinks people will be happy that Big Y Foods responded early to the concern.

According to a press release by the Kroger Co., the 10 banners under Kroger have pulled approximately 55 items in the cough, cold and weight loss category. Customers who have purchased products containing the controversial and potentially dangerous chemical can return the products for an exchange or a full refund, the release reported.

Other grocery chains clearing their shelves of the OTCs were A & P, Montavale, N.J. and Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa., as well as Piggly Wiggly Supermarkets supplied by Schultz Sav-O, Sheboygan, Wis.

Drug retailers such as Rite Aid, Camp Hill, Pa., CVS, Woonsocket, R.I. and Walgreen Co., Deerfield, Ill., have also announced similar response. Sarah Datz, manager of public relations at Rite Aid, said, "Customers are glad to know we took the action we did." She said the retailer stocks many alternative products that do not contain PPA.

Panagrosso said Big Y sales would definitely be affected by the product loss. "These are products that move quickly, high-volume-selling products," she said. "There are gaping holes on the shelves."

According to the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Rockville, Md., spokesperson Crystal Rice said the agency "is glad to hear retailers are concerned and quickly getting involved to remove these products from the shelves." The Washington-based Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group representing OTC drug manufacturers, stands by its statement that PPA-containing products are safe as long as they are taken as directed. According to its website, www.chpa-info.org, R. William Soller, Ph.D., senior vice president and director of science and technology, said "the individual companies are reviewing this and making their own individual decision regarding their products."

Rice said the FDA has begun the rule-making procedures to ban shipment of the ingredient across state lines, forcing the drug manufacturers to stop making their products with PPA.

She said the FDA has to publish a proposed ruling on the matter to start the process. According to Rice, 225 prescription drug manufacturers, OTC manufacturers, repackagers and relabelers of medications have received a letter from the FDA urging them to stop manufacturing PPA-contained products and replace them with a safer alternative.