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Novartis has restarted manufacturing some products at its Lincoln, Nebraska facility. But the popular Excedrin OTC meds, and veterinary products such as Interceptor, are not yet in production.

According to a recent article in the Lincoln Journal Star, production of Opana tablets and morphine sulfate extended released has resumed. Novartis manufactures these, and other, prescription medicines under contract for Endo Pharmaceuticals.

As devotees of Excedrin and Interceptor (a veterinary medication used to prevent heartworm in dogs and cats) know, waiting for these products to return to market has been an exercise in patience.

And trying to find out when Novartis might resume production of these meds is an exercise in frustration.

On January 8, 2012 Novartis Consumer Health, Inc. recalled all lots of Excedrin, NoDoz, and other OTC products manufactured at its Lincoln, Nebraska production facility, and announced that it was suspending operations at the facility in order to “accelerate maintenance and other improvements” at the Lincoln operation. The shutdown affected the availability of a number of other human and animal meds that were produced in Lincoln, including the popular Interceptor heartworm preventative.

The recall and plant shutdown coincided with a scathing inspection report released by FDA in January. The report detailed numerous significant quality control problems at the Lincoln plant – many of them repeat observations first noted during earlier inspections.

Novartis has been close-mouthed about its timeframe for restarting production in Lincoln. According to a Novartis news release, the company told shareholders during its February 23rd Annual General Meeting that it was assuming a “…mid-year start of shipments out of the Lincoln plant.” But, two sentences later, the news release alluded to the possibility of a delayed start-up of Lincoln.

The only other clue to the start-up timeline comes from a March 16th letter to veterinarians, reported by the VIN News Service. In that letter, Novartis is reported to have acknowledged “a backorder situation” resulting from the Lincoln shutdown, affecting the popular veterinary products Interceptor Flavor Tabs and Sentinal Flavor Tabs. According to the VIN report, veterinarians were told that exact timelines for product availability remained uncertain. “We hope,” the Novartis letter is quoted as saying, “to be able to give you a definitive date for a restart within the next few weeks.”

On March 22nd, I sent a request for information by email to the Novartis recall email address, asking for any available information regarding the status of the Lincoln facility. On April 10th, I received a reply from Novartis Consumer Health spokesperson, Millicent Brooks. “In response to your inquiry,” she wrote, “we are working hard to resume production at our Lincoln facility and return OTC and Animal Health products, including Excedrin and Interceptor, to consumers as soon as possible.”

Some Excedrin users have reported purchasing the product on eBay. I would strongly advise against this option. There is no way of knowing whether the product being offered is authentic, or whether it has been stored under proper conditions.

Novartis will be releasing its next quarterly report to shareholders on April 24th. Let’s hope that the report will include an update on the Lincoln status, and that the news will be good.