The Case of The Disappearing Pepcid Complete

August 27, 2016: With nothing current to blog about, I pulled this post out of the archives, still today, the topic for which I am the most often searched. That, and my good looks! 🙂

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The blog post for which I am most often searched is this one, The Case  of the Disappearing Pepcid Complete, that ran originally on December 29, 2010. I was even linked in a New York Times article on the subject and since then comments come in, even one as recently as two days ago from Reader Gina.

Lo and behold, Pepcid Complete is back on the shelves December 2012.  I have run several posts on Pepcid but this is the original, the first, and the one worth repeating. For reference, the other posts are by date, older to newer:

1. Pepcid Complete: Found (March 25, 2011)

2. Pepcid Complete Missing…Again (September 12, 2011)

UPDATE 12-12-12. PEPCID COMPLETE FOUND……AGAIN!

The ever appearing and disappearing case of Pepcid Complete has reared its cap again. Lost and found. Lost and found. On the shelves. Off the shelves. Mystery. Found last week at my local CVS and Target stores YET, on the Pepcid Complete website, entering my zip code in their Product Locator, it comes up Sorry, we are unable to find PC near you. Seems even J&J doesn’t know their product is available again.

The PC that I found was only the Berry Flavor, not the classic mint that most regular users prefer. And the price – a whopping $21.99 at CVS. My recollection is that is used to be in the $15+/- ballpark. Holler if you are finding Pepcid Complete again and maybe I can get further comment from the peeps at J&J. Stranger marketing I have never known.

Found at CVS
Found at CVS December 2012

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The original post starts below, with updates within the post as I saw the product lost and found and lost and found and…….

BREAKING NEWS: MARCH 25, 2011

Pepcid Complete FOUND at Sam’s Club, Little Rock, Arkansas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

UPDATE 01.06.11. I’ve started to notice black market sales of Pepcid Complete, even two through Amazon’s Marketplace, meaning a third-party vendor. A container of the Mint flavor tablets there now going for a pricey $53.00 + $4.99 shipping! The Berry flavor for $63.97 + $4.99 shipping, Another vendor at Amazon’s Marketplace has it for $68.97, with a note that says “EXPIRATION 1/2011 OR BETTER”, whatever that means!! 🙂

One certainly has to wonder where these two sellers got their Pepcid!! I miss it, but not that much.

While not often a victim of indigestion or acid reflux, on those occasions when eating the wrong food (think Rangers-Islanders game!) calls for an instant remedy, the EOS Family uses Pepcid Complete, Mint Flavor. It’s an instant cure, whether at 3am or noon. One chewable. Aaaah.

Starting a few months or more ago, Pepcid Complete began to disappear from the store shelves. Not at CVS. Not at Target. Not anywhere. I had a year-old jar that was precariously empty so I was getting nervous about finding a replacement. I asked at the stores and they didn’t know.

So I called J&J, the parent to the product. I was told on the first call that there was a distribution problem but I asked ‘why, if merely a distribution problem, would all the shelves be empty at every store?” It made me think of the Tylenol incident when they went into stores and bought out all the stock, not wanting to alert a recall. Hmmmm. I didn’t believe for one minute the story of the distribution problem.

Fast forward a bit and while making a quick 1-2 stop at the Bedford Food Emporium, I spied on the shelves ONE container of 50-count Pepcid Complete, Berry Flavor. The label said “New Look” but the price was way off, only $4.99 when any regular user knows the price is $12-15 or more, depending on where you buy it. So I sheepishly asked at the customer service desk if they knew (a) why they had only ONE container, and (b) had they mis-marked the price? As you can imagine, I got no viable answer to either question so I paid my $4.99 and bolted, thinking I had scored quite the deal.

I got it home and noticed that it “shook” rather oddly, like there were alot of little pieces inside. And yep, that was it. 50 tablets in quarters and thirds, as if someone had stepped on it before placing it inside the container. Visions of some angry employee’s idea of retribution were dancing in my head.

So once again, I called J&J. I gave them the lot number and other details and they said there was no recall, nothing they could share with me on how (a) this container came all broken and (b) why the grocery store only had one bottle and (c) why it was priced so wrong.

J&J assured me they were working hard to bring the product back to the shelves. Once again, the party line: distribution problems. I threw away all the bits and pieces, kept the four or five (out of 50) whole tablets and went about my merry way, sure I would find them on my shelves again real soon.

Flash forward to today. I decided, for no real reason, to check the Pepcid website and lo and behold, a “voluntary recall”. But not of the lot numbers on my container. No mention of why they haven’t restocked the shelves. No discussion on their terms of why the product has gone missing.

I am convinced there is a back story here. Something has gone wrong and the folks at J&J are not telling the truth. No product that was as popular as PC would be off the shelves for months.

Anyone else out there with a theory, please add your two cents. I had to buy TUMS today and they are utterly worthless.

65 thoughts on “The Case of The Disappearing Pepcid Complete

  1. Johnson & Johnson • Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals, Co. (JJMCP) is initiating a voluntary recall of one lot of PEPCID® COMPLETE®, lot number BEF062, and one lot of ORIGINAL STRENGTH PEPCID® AC®, lot number BFF010, from the wholesaler and retailer level. This is not a consumer level recall and the risk of a serious adverse health consequence is remote. The recall is being initiated because the potential exists for a small number of bottles within these two lots to have been punctured during the packaging process. The puncture was discovered as part of the company’s quality control processes.

    JJMCP is committed to providing high quality products and we have provided our wholesalers and retailers with information about this recall.

    Consumers with general questions should call our Consumer Care Center at 1-800-755-4008 (available Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time). Consumers who have health concerns should contact their healthcare provider. Any adverse reactions may also be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch Program by fax at 1-800-FDA-0178, by mail at MedWatch, HF-2, FDA, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852-9787, or on the MedWatch website at http://www.fda.gov/safety/medwatch/default.htm.

    JJMCP is a U.S.-based 50/50 joint venture formed to research, develop, manufacture, market and sell consumer healthcare products in the United States, including Infants’ MYLICON®, MYLANTA®, PEPCID® COMPLETE® and PEPCID® AC®.

    1. My point, Mr. Johnson, is that ALL Pepcid Complete is gone, not just the bad lots. The notice says ” initiating a voluntary recall of one lot of PEPCID” and does not make mention of why all other lot numbers/flavors are missing in action. It was gone LONG before this blip of a notice was on their website. LONG LONG before. There’s something rotten in Denmark.

  2. Who knew?

    Drugs that may cause impotence
    Health Library – Health Illustrated Encyclopedia

    ..H2 Blockers (Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid)

  3. Seriously, noodle around recent back issues of your WSJ online subscription to find the reporters who cover pharmaceutical companies like J&J, and email this info to them. I expect they’ll enjoy pursuing it, given that a) there is obviously a story here, and b) reporters very much enjoy embarrassing their subjects, and c) J&J’s PR Dept probably has its second string in charge, given that this is a long holiday week, which will make it extra fun for the reporters.

  4. You need to get this story more attention than the WSJ – see if you can get linked to Instapundit or some other really high-powered blog.

  5. Wouldn’t one of the other over the counter H2 blockers give you pretty much the same clinical benefit?

    If the WSJ runs a story on it it will get plenty of attention. Just the on line version has over a million paid subscribers, including most of the conservative blogosphere (and me).

      1. Amen to “it’s the only product that works”. I suffer from Serious Acid Reflux, My father died from surgical complications from Esophogeal Cancer brought about by Gastro-Intestnal Reflux Disease (which was brought on by Chronic Acid Reflux): So it’s a genetic affair with me…

        I say all that to say that I have tried every other pill imaginable, Prescription and non prescription and the ONLY one that works is Pepsid Complete. This absence is literally killing me.

  6. Oh, I forgot…Amazon also has a few bottles of the real thing available via some of their resellers but I’ve never purchased anything on Amazon that didn’t come directly from Amazon so buyer beware.

    1. Fan: did you see the DATE of that Money magazine article? July!!!! So J&J has known for a very long time their product was having quality control issues. Good find. I didn’t unearth that article in all the Googling I did.

      As for buying the product at Amazon, I agree, no thanks, unless it is from Amazon directly. J&J’s Pepcid website has a link to buy Complete that goes to Drugstore.com but the link does not show any Complete, just other Pepcid line products, like AC, etc.

      Thanks so much.

  7. EOS, I did see the date, the Reuters article is only a few weeks old and doesn’t mention Pepcid but it’s at the same plants as the July article. I only skimmed the articles but it looks like J&J have had major turnover in their executive ranks this year and have ongoing problems with the FDA (I didn’t link the lastest report but the Reuters has the link in their story).

    Happy Pepcid hunting, I’m glad my occasional indigestion is cured by a couple of cheap Tums chewables. 🙂

    You’re very welcome for the information, I had some time to kill while waiting on hold for my state DMV to answer their phones.

    1. Fan: your state DMV actually answers their phones????? I’m moving to where you are. Even going to any NY DMV, you can’t get the person behind the counter to speak, let alone crack a smile. They must put “be curmudgeonly” on the qualifications for the job.

  8. I noticed the disappearing Pepcid Complete as well, as I use it frequently. Two nights ago I had a bad case of heartburn and decided to see if it had returned to the shelves. Not only was the Pepcid still mysteriously absent, but the generics were gone as well. I checked Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens with no luck. When the Pepcid was initially pulled, all of the generics were still available. Perhaps the generics are just selling out as a result of a general shortage of remedies containing famotidine, calcium, and magnesium, but it seems somewhat unlikely that all three stores in my small town would be sold out. If products made by entirely different companies are also disappearing, what does this imply?

  9. Other companies products are probably disappearing because all the Pepcid purchasers are now buying the other products. Pepcid Complete was a very popular item because it was easy to take. Didn’t even need that pesky glass of water that isn’t always available when the heartburn shows up.

    1. Duncan’s Mama: My grandmother used to take Brisochi (sp?). In the blue jar. Flakes or dust that she stirred into a glass and drink. I may go see if it’s still being made.

      I agree that PC is easy to chew. TUMS are like biting into a rock, teeth-breaking rock.

  10. As a pharmacist of 25 years, I have never seen a multi-billion dollar block buster drug disappear from shelves without any information to medical professionals or consumers. I am concerned about a major public health risk that is being covered up. Even the Tylenol scare was well publicized but this major product, with over 100 million heartburn patients….being the market leader and best working medicine on the market….disappears without any factual information…and why J&J would not immediately go into emergency mode to fix a production or quality issue…?? This makes no sense other than conspiracy, payoffs, etc. to avoid millions of lawsuits that would bankrupt one of the largest healthcare providers…one of the most influential and most powerful pharma companies on the planet.

  11. I SO agree with David. Something is up and J&J is covering it up! I too depend on Pepcid Complete. I wrote the company on its website and got the same lame answer. I was thinking of asking the New York Times why they haven’t jumped on this.

    1. Susan: We’ve written to the NYT and the WSJ with no response/acknowledgement from either. We even researched who their pharmaceutical reporters are and contacted them directly.

      WSJ = Dinah Brin
      NYT = Duff Wilson
      If you know other contacts, by all means send them a link to this thread.

  12. With things being so hush-hush regarding the Pepcid Complete recall, the consumer can rightfully speculate that there is a major quality problem and an intentional cover-up by J&J themselves. Why should the consumer believe that a similar problem couldn’t exist with the rest of their product lines? I’m sure that if such a rumor began to spread, the resulting dip in total sales would give J&J reason to reconsider their current stance. Something is just not right and, like others have posted, the lack of probes from the media just adds to the conspiracy theory.

  13. It seems that every drug with a combination of the three main ingredients of Pepcid Complete, including all the store generics and Tums Dual Action, have been scarce/missing for about 7-8 months now.

    At first I was certain that this was a ploy by J&J to push a “pill that you take daily” instead of when you need it, because it would undoubtedly reap a better income if all the Pepcid Complete users became dependent on something they took daily instead of when their heartburn/acid reflux acted up. Now I’m not so sure.

    I hate to say it, but after over half a year of these products all vanishing off the shelves without a word to anyone, including retailers, the media, the pharmaceutical community, and medical profession, the conspiracy theories are starting to sound more and more plausible.

  14. TUMS Dual Action to be released February 14th 2011. Could this be a case of a deal made by TUMS to make sure Pepcid was pulled form the market?

    Active Ingredients (in each chewable tablet):
    Famotidine 10mg
    Calcium carbonate 800mg
    Magnesium hydroxide 165mg

  15. J&J must think we are all stupid. Something is wrong, and when the truth surfaces, the lawsuits will start, a movie will be made, and a few executives are headed to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200. When I called them I got the same company line, manufacturing and distribution problem. Well things happen, but they get corrected real quickly. I know, I’ve been there, all you hear from upper management is this is costing us $$$$$$ per day get it fixed! Something big time is broke and I suuspect they are really affraid of the problem. Believe me what ever it is, it will raise to the surface eventually.

  16. This recall was news to me. (Maybe because I like Tums. And their catchy tune.) But it was nice to hear that you got so involved in investigating what happened! I love that you asked all those store clerks, and made the phone calls. That’s the spirit! (Great. Now I’ve got the tune stuck in my head.)

  17. On 4-16-11 I decided to check my local stores cvs,rite-aid, walmart etc, to my surprise the shelves have been restocked of pepcid complete, my bottle price $11.99 at memorial hospital LOT: CBF003 EXP: 01/14
    Barcode 71683788825, there is 7 digit number underneath exp date 7844280, thank god cause I cant go without this after the shortage I found some at a local swapmeet and bought bottle of fruit flavor 50 count for $45.

  18. June 26, 2011…It’s missing AGAIN…no more Pepcid Complete at Walmart or Walgreens. I can’t use the other products, especially the generics…just don’t work or too hard to chew! I’m in Dallas, Texas.

  19. Fast forward to August 2011. I just discovered it has happened yet again! All pepcid complete products are not to be found anywhere!

  20. Heartburn sufferers arise! I’ve done the phone calls and searches too. My mood now is such that I do not buy ANY J&J products. Aunt Barb

  21. You should be able to get something similar with the same ingredients. I had a look online. Here are the ingredients of Pepcid Complete.

    Active Ingredients:
    Each tablet of PEPCID® COMPLETE contains 10 mg of famotidine, 800 mg of calcium carbonate and 165 mg of magnesium hydroxide. Each tablet provides 320 mg of elemental calcium and 69 mg of elemental magnesium. Low in sodium.

    Nonmedicinal Ingredients (Mint Flavour):
    Cellulose acetate, dextrates, flavour, hydroxypropyl cellulose, hypromellose, lactose, magnesium stearate, pregelatinized starch, red ferric oxide, sodium lauryl sulphate, sugar.

    Nonmedicinal Ingredients (Berry Flavour):
    Cellulose acetate, D&C Red No. 7, dextrates, FD&C Blue No. 1, FD&C Red No. 40, flavours, hydroxypropyl cellulose, hypromellose, lactose, magnesium stearate, pregelatinized starch, sodium lauryl sulphate, sugar.

    I’m not sure if you can ship drugs from the UK to the USA but if you can, there are several that you can get that have the active ingredient (Famotidine) in them.

    PS This webpage has the main ingredients trade names (in Canada as well as the USA, I think) so maybe you can track something down across the border? Anywhere you can get it OTC (Over The Counter), I guess. Good luck!
    http://www.drugs.com/ppa/famotidine.html

  22. And Val, you won’t believe this, but the ONE thing we really wanted to do was look in a Canadian pharmacy for Pepcid or its equivalent. But did we? Noooooooooooooo. We were so overwhelmed by the drenching rains and trying to see so many museums and churches, we simply forgot to get into a pharmacy. Duh.

    Thanks for all the details and ingredient analysis.

  23. EOSR, Nice site you have here about the PC problem. My wife and I need these to live. I am constantly checking the different stores in the area. A few months ago (June 2011?) I found a CVS would in the area had the mint flavored PC on the shelf. I brought all 3 remaining containers on the shelf and they have lasted to now. I checked a local pharmacy for PC, there was a spot on the shelf, but no product available. I spoke with the Pharmist and she read me the same article about the manufacturing problems with the containers. Anyway, I brought their ‘generic’ version of the chewable tablet and we will have to see how they work.

    More later.

  24. Tums now has “Tums Dual Action,” with the EXACT same active ingredients and EXACT same amounts as Pepcid Complete. It’s Tums, it chews like Tums and it tastes like Tums but it works just as well as Pepcid Complete.

  25. I have been turned on to Pepcid for my dog – my vet has him taking it for repeated outbreaks of pancreatitis. I bought the 1st bottle about a year ago – berry flavor and he didn’t like taking it – when I fell apon the mint flavor he chews it like a dog treat , actually likes taking it. Along with a couple other meds I have to give him the Pepcid is the last one I give him as a reward. Well I too am finding very hard to find Pepcid complete on the shelves locally. I didn’t recall paying over $30 for it – so when i went online to purchase and saw the 25 amount for over $30 I was taken aback. With a little more research I found your blog. Now I will let my Vet in on what’s happening – That’s all I need to be giving him something which is under recall. I’ve already spent a small fortune this year at the Vet’s office.

  26. @Earth Ocean Sky Redux – your October post about looking in Canada… PC vanished off all the shelves up in by March, most companies it was gone by December/January and I found a pharmacy in backwoods Ontario that had 1 bottle left in March. I haven’t been able to find it since.

    I emailed J&J to find out why, they told me to contact the purchasers of the pharmacies I goto. So I emailed the 3 big pharmacies in my area (Jean Coutu, Shopper’s Drug Mart & Rexall), they all blamed J&J for the shortage. I forwarded the emails from the big 3 back to J&J and have never heard back.

    There are no knock offs that I’ve found that work as well as the PC did for me, and their AC formula is a waste of money for me. I keep searching the internet for answers/solutions about once a month in hopes of finding something….

  27. Update on my post this morning…

    So I’ve been using Tums Smoothies for the last year as that’s all I could get my hands on and ran out of them last night (hence my searching online this morning for Pepcid Complete) and had to do grocery shopping today.

    The major drug stores in Ottawa still aren’t carrying Pepcid Complete but I walked into Walmart and there were 4 full display runs of Pepcid Complete Mint & Berry flavours.

    So on your trip north of the border if you still don’t have it down there, check our Walmarts out – if 1 is carrying it, they all are up here.

  28. I just found this, as I have acid reflux and just ran out of the four bottles I bought last year. I am so bummed out to hear that it is not just my imagination that it is not found anywhere.

  29. I too take these damn things every day, and it’s been gone from my area from every single store. The first time I noticed the walgreens shelf empty (must have been over a year ago) I rang the pharmacist and he told me there had been a recall. I haven’t seen another bottle of pepcid complete in any store since then (and I always look). I’ve been buying the generics. I even tried buying the maximum strength AC and taking it faithfully every day, but even at double the dose it didn’t do the job for me. I didn’t realize there were so many of us addicted to pepcid complete. Maybe the secret is they have crack in them.

  30. We switched from PC when we couldn’t find it anymore to the Tums Dual Action. Now that is gone too. None to be found anywhere, and no one is restocking their shelves. I can’t believe people are buying it that fast that I’m just happening to miss it every shipment.

  31. I have been looking everywhere for Pepcid Complete. I have tried the generic Target and Walmart brands (crap). Worthless. Pepcid Complete was the only thing that worked for me.

  32. Colorado Springs in the last two years or so PEPCID has disappeared from shelves of Safeway, Kingsoopers, Target, Walgrens. Out of the blue shelves would be stocked and very shortly after bare again for at least 3 months. Something is definitely wrong at J&J.

  33. Judy
    Still no PC on any of my local store shelves. Like so many others, Ihave tried any and all generics I can find, hard as a rock. I have false teeth and can barely get them chewed up.

  34. So 60 Minutes, when are you going to do a story on the case of the missing pepcid??? or have you been paid off to shut up???

  35. FOUND!! I just ordered 2 bottles of Pepcid Complete (berry flavor – 50 count) from Walmart.com. Relief is on it’s way!! I am up suffering from a bought of reflux as I type. This is what prompted my initial search about what happened to PC – I was missing my instant relief and have not been able to find it on shelves ANYWHERE. Hope everyone else can get what they need as well. Good Luck!

  36. Once again, June 2015, Pepcid Complete seems to be unavailable at all my local stores including: Sam’s Club, Kroger, Randalls and Walmart. I was going to order from Amazon but it was being resold and the guy only had one bottle available which seemed suspicious to me so I didn’t order it.

    1. So interesting. I gave up looking for Pepcid Complete in favor of the CVS store brand. The CVS brand is harder to chew but works really well, and they often have bottles with 50% more sales. Hope that helps.

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