On Friday, January 15, 2010, Johnson & Johnson, the multi-national conglomerate, issued a huge recall of several of its most popular over the counter medications, including Tylenol, Motrin and St. Joseph’s Aspirin. The popular products have a strange moldy smell and have caused more than 75 people to become ill after taking the medicines. The symptoms range from nausea and vomiting to severe abdominal pain. Several people have sought medical attention after getting sick.
Johnson & Johnson apparently knew of the suspect drugs several months ago, but failed to promptly and thoroughly investigate the complaints. The moldy smell allegedly originates with a chemical used in treating the wooden pallets on which the products are shipped. Johnson & Johnson has not publicly disclosed the name of the chemical.
The Food and Drug Administration is also lobbing accusations that Johnson & Johnson should have notified them as soon as they suspected a problem. In a prior post about another drug making giant, Eli Lily, I explained how the FDA obtained billions as a result of the drug maker’s violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Similar allegations by the FDA are considered likely in this case as a result of Johnson & Johnson’s reckless disregard for the public’s safety.
In a separate announcement, the Justice Department is alleging that the pharmaceutical giant has paid millions and millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare Inc. to boost drug sales to patients in nursing homes. Federal prosecutors contend that Omnicare purchases of Johnson & Johnson medicines tripled during this under-handed scheme to more than $280 million. Such conduct will likely cost Johnson & Johnson tens of millions, as it should. Conduct by corporations that intentionally harms the public should continue to be subject these corporate wrongdoers to massive fines, criminal prosecution, and punitive damages.