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Johnson & Johnson Accused of Stonewalling Recall Probe

Jun 11, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

The head of a Congressional committee probing Johnson & Johnson’s recent recall of children’s medicines says the drug maker hasn’t been cooperating with his panel’s investigation. Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the panel may have to take a more aggressive stance that could include issuing subpoenas.

Johnson & Johnson has been under scrutiny since April, when its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit recalled more than 40 varieties of Tylenol Infant Drops, Children’s Tylenol Suspensions, Children’s Tylenol Plus Suspensions, Motrin Infant Drops, Children’s Motrin Suspensions, Children’s Zyrtec Liquid in Bottles, and Children’s Benadryl Allergy Liquid.

McNeil has temporarily shut down production at the Fort Washington, PA facility that made the drugs. In April, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) cited more than 20 manufacturing problems, including not properly testing for contamination of the recalled products. The problems prompted the FDA to widen its investigation of McNeil’s manufacturing practices, and it is now inspecting the company’s other facilities in Lancaster, PA and Puerto Rico. Officials from the agency have also said they were considering possible criminal charges against Johnson & Johnson and McNeil.

According to The New York Times, Towns has accused Johnson & Johnson of using delaying tactics, and in some cases misinformation, to stymie his committee’s investigation. Towns even asserted that Bank of America and the much-maligned insurance giant A.I.G. had been more cooperative the Johnson & Johnson in recent investigations of their conduct.

Towns told the Times he was most troubled in discrepancies among different accounts Johnson & Johnson has given of the recall. He said the company told his staff the recall involved six million bottles of children’s medicines, yet the FDA was told it involved more than 136 million bottles.

At least one other lawmaker on the committee appears to share Town’s frustration. Eleanor Holmes Norton, (D-DC) told the Times that Johnson & Johnson’s conduct seemed to her to demonstrate a continuing lack of transparency.

“The only way for Johnson & Johnson to reclaim any measure of credibility,” Norton said, “is to let it all out now.”


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