Johnson & Johnson CEO William Weldon spoke before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week, offering words of apology for his company's recent handling of drug recalls:
"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 accountability for the problems and I will take full accountability for fixing them," Weldon said.
He also admitted that Johnson & Johnson initially sought to keep the safety concerns quiet by secretly buying up defective drugs without informing regulators and consumers of its actions. The company tried to perform a "phantom recall" of defective Motrin last year by sending contractors around the country to buy up the medicine from stores without alerting regulators or the public.
The clandestine operation was discovered after one of the contractors accidentally dropped an instruction sheet on the floor of a store. Apparently, the FDA was then alerted and McNeil subsequently announced a recall of roughly 88,000 packages of the product.
The government committee has been investigating the circumstances behind the half-dozen recalls this year of non-prescription cold and pain drugs such as Tylenol, Benadryl and Motrin made by Johnson & Johnson.
Weldon addressed the "phantom" Motrin recall. "We made a mistake. We did not notify the FDA that we would be purchasing the Motrin products. We should have notified the FDA," he said.
Not surprisingly, Weldon's assertions that this would never happen again were met with skepticism.