J&J CEO Apologizes for Recalls, Announces Return of Children's Medicines

J&J CEO Weldon Apologizes for Recalls
J&J CEO Weldon Apologizes for Recalls

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) CEO William Weldon (pictured) apologized to Congress Thursday for a series of issues that recently have beset the world's biggest health-products company, specifically the recall of its popular children's medicines, and its problematic attempt to remove a substandard batch of Motrin in mid-2009 through a so-called "phantom recall" before publicly recalling the product. Weldon also said the company is investing more than $100 million in improving operations at its McNeil division, which produces the children's medicines, and expects to start shipping them again next week.

"I know that we let the public down," said Weldon in a testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today. "We did not maintain our high quality standards, and as a result, children do not have access to our important medicines."

Weldon is looking to address safety concerns at the company, whose $15.3 billion in second-quarter sales were little changed from a year earlier. U.S. consumer-product sales were down 14% from 2009, J&J said in July.

The company's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit last year engaged in a so-called "phantom recall" of Motrin after the tablets were found to not dissolve as quickly as they were supposed to. J&J hired an outside contractor to buy out all the bottles of Motrin from retailers and subsequently destroy them, but later issued a formal recall.

McNeil later in the year considered taking a similar strategy with Children's Tylenol, which Weldon said "presented only a remote risk to patient safety," before issuing a recall for that product.

"It is clear to me that in retrospect, McNeil should have handled things differently," said Weldon in the testimony. Weldon added that J&J is investing more than $100 million in McNeil, which on Oct. 4 will start shipping bottles of children's medicine. The division will make about 4 million bottles of medication available to the public by the end of the year, Weldon said.

J&J has also created chief quality officers for its consumer, pharmaceutical and medical business segments, Weldon said.