Johnson and Johnson Execs and FDA Take Fire Over Phantom Recall

By Maya

Sep 30, 2010 2:35pm

ABC’s Tahman Bradley reports: The chief executive of Johnson and Johnson admitted to Congress at a hearing into a “phantom recall” that his company made mistakes removing some of its products from store shelves.    “I know that we let the public down,” Chairman and CEO William Weldon told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday. “We did not maintain our high quality standards, and as a result, children do not have access to our important medicines.” In what ended up being a public relations nightmare, Johnson and Johnson recalled children’s medicines and then separately removed Motrin bottles from store shelves without ordering an official recall. The Motrin had a dissolution issue that the company discovered. Documents obtained by Congress show Johnson and Johnson hired contractors to go into stores and buy the Motrin product that the company wanted to retrieve. The company apparently conducted the “phantom recall” so as to avoid negative publicity. Johnson and Johnson originally told Congress back in May that the contractors were hired only to conduct an audit of stores to determine availability of the defective Motrin, but the House committee obtained documents that show Johnson and Johnson subsidiary McNeil Consumer Healthcare in fact ordered a withdrawal of the product from stores nationwide. Company executives were called to testify Thursday and the hearing quickly turned political and contentious. Ranking Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, Calif., sharply criticized the Food and Drug Administration for its oversight of Johnson and Johnson. He blamed Democrats for failing to live up to their promise of investigating wrongdoing. Inside the committee hearing room, staffers posted signs with quotes form White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Congressman Henry Waxman. The Emanuel quote said “we want to be the party that is ferreting out waste and fraud…” The Waxman quote — from 2006 before Democrats took control of Congress — said “Congress has failed to conduct meaningful investigation of significant wrongdoing…” Several committee members expressed concern that there are major questions about what the FDA knew about the recall. Republicans accused the FDA of having too cozy a relationship with Johnson and Johnson. Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., argued that this episode with Johnson and Johnson highlights the fact that the FDA needs the ability to order a company to do a mandatory recall. Rep. Issa quested whether the FDA would do a better job with more authority. Republican Rep. Jason Chaffertz of Utah said documents show the FDA bent its rules. “We also need some answers from the FDA because the candor has not been there,” he said. “There’s some funny business that been here and nobody is happy about it.” Johnson and Johnson executive Colleen Goggins appeared before Congress early this year and was back in the committee hearing room on Thursday. She talked about the company’s actions to fix the problem with its medicine. Her testimony earlier this year that she was not aware of any recall of Motrin was brought up on Thursday. Goggins promised that the company will be more transparent in the future. Referring to documents from September 2009 which show the company found that a seperate company product did not meet all quality standards, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio., said he thinks there’s a “pattern of deception” on the part of Johnson and Johnson. He also criticized Mr. Weldon and Ms. Goggin’s testimony, saying it seemed like they’d been coached by spin doctors. Kucinich added that he though Ms. Goggins testimony lacked credibility. FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein testified that he did not find any evidence of death related to the Johnson and Johnson products that were taken out of stores. But he did admit that the FDA moving forward would do things differently. Some Johnson and Johnson children’s products will be back on the shelf as early as next week.

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus