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I wrote previously about Johnson & Johnson’s "phantom" recall of its Motrin brand over-the-counter pain relief medication. Johnson & Johnson had found a defect in certain batches of the medication, but instead of issuing a formal recall, the drug giant hired undercover contractors to buyout whole store shelves of the medication in what has been termed a "phantom" recall.

In a second round of congressional hearings today, Johnson & Johnson’s CEO, William Weldon, admitted his company had let down the public through numerous product problems and recent recalls, admitting, "We made a mistake."

Internal J&J emails called the "phantom" recall "a major win" in avoiding a formal recall and resultant bad publicity.

From CNN’s coverage:

"I know that we let the public down. We did not maintain our high quality standards. Children do not have access to our important medicines. I accept full responsibility for the problem and I will take full accountability for fixing them," Weldon said in prepared remarks to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Johnson & Johnson products have been the subject of 11 recalls in just the past year, including:

  • Motrin IB
  • Children’s Benadryl
  • Children’s Tylenol
  • Children’s Tylenol Meltaways
  • Tylenol Infants’ Drops
  • Tylenol Extra Strength
  • Tylenol Day & Night
  • Tylenol PM
  • Tylenol Extra Strength Rapid Release
  • Tylenol Arthritis
  • Benadryl Allergy Ultratab
  • Acuvue TruEye contact lenses
  • Zyrtec Itchy Eye Drops

Also included in the list of Johnson & Johnson recalls is the DePuy artificial hip recall. Just weeks ago, Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics division recalled two of its hip replacement systems: the ASR XL Acetabular Head System and the ASR Hip Resurfacing System. These defective artificial hips have been linked to a number of additional surgeries, chronic pain, and potentially linked to cancer.

Unsurprisingly, these defects and substantial number of recalls is what happens when companies lose focus, take short cuts and put profits ahead of safety. Johnson & Johnson’s admission that is has lost its way is a good first start. Too many companies fail to acknowledge the problems that lead to safety recalls.

Nevertheless, J&J needs to right these corporate wrongs. If they do, perhaps Johnson & Johnson can prove that it will properly place its focus first on its customers and their safety.

[More on Johnson & Johnson recalls]

(c) Copyright 2010 Brett A. Emison

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