How Not to Handle a Product Recall: J&J Shows the Way.

J&J’s handling of the Tylenol recall in the 1980s is lauded as “the” model of how a company should handle a recall; indeed, even the US Department of Defense studies it — http://www.ou.edu/deptcomm/dodjcc/groups/02C2/Johnson%20&%20Johnson.htm! (Coincidentally, it was also the genesis of the effective commercialization of product recall insurance). However, it appears that J&J has forgotten its prior success and instead is seeking to write a new model of how not to handle a recall.

As we reported, earlier this year, J&J subsidiary McNeil Consumer Healthcare ran into a problem with some of its Tylenol products — http://www.wcmlaw.com/blog/Default.aspx?g=posts&t=486. In May, that same subsidiary was forced to institute a recall of 40 over-the-counter pain, fever, and allergy medications for infants and children, including certain forms of Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, and Zyrtec. As you can imagine, the FDA and Congress has been actively (and publicly) investigating these recalls. Rather, than cooperate with the investigations, it appears that J&J is stalling and refusing to provide requested information — http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/health/11drug.html?ref=business. The relevant investigative agencies are now considering a more aggressive approach and a criminal inquiry has been opened. J&J seems unaware of the old axiom that the cover-up is always worse than the crime, except, of course, when it’s not.

If you would like to know more about this post, or WCM’s product recall practice, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.