'

Is McNeil Labs the next BP?

McNeil Labs, which the late Robert McNeil's grandfather founded, is on the verge of becoming the next British Petroleum, the next (deserved) victim of the public's fury with big business practices.

Maybe it's a blessing that Robert McNeil passed away last week at the age of 94.

This would kill him.

McNeil Labs, the company Robert McNeil's grandfather founded, is on the verge of becoming the next British Petroleum, the next (deserved) victim of the public's fury with big business practices.

At Smartplanet we have been covering the build-up here. (And here. )

Tylenol, once synonymous with crisis management and pain relief, is now being investigated for side effects. This comes shortly after several recalls, most notably on childrens' products, the same consumers McNeil was thinking of when he developed the compound in the 1950s.

Consumers are now being routinely warned not to overdo drugs like Tylenol, and packages are due to get smaller as a result. Until recently most consumers thought Tylenol was completely safe.

The latest recall, which cites manufacturing problems, comes after reports of 30 deaths. Congress is asking whether the FDA has enough authority to stop this sort of thing, a finding that will impact the entire industry.

Today's hearing will feature Colleen Goggins of McNeil parent Johnson & Johnson,  following a panel of FDA officials. Expect to see stern lectures from exasperated Congresscritters looking for just the right words of outrage to get onto the evening news.

The company's image has taken a massive hit, with many consumers switching to store brands even though a leading manufacturer of those products is now facing problems.

Both the company and regulators will try and deflect blame, but the finger pointing may look no better than the BP-Halliburton-Transocean dance from last week. This is not an oil spill in distant waters. It's something that can hit any mother looking to relieve the pain of a sick child.

It's a tremendous come-down and, as with BP, it might not have happened had the company listened to early warning signs. Of course regulators are there to point out such early warning signs.

Look for more cops of that type on the drug beat.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com