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Johnson & Johnson allegedly used undercover shoppers in a "phantom recall" of Motrin tablets.
After last April's recall of children’s Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl, facts are emerging that show that Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare attempted to mislead federal regulators in 2008.
According to documents obtained by Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson sent “secret shoppers” to stores as part of an unpublicized recall of Motrin tablets. McNeil told the FDA that it had hired secret shoppers to buy samples from thousands of stores. According to the FDA, McNeil said it was only sampling Motrin tablets from the stores as a sort of quality control. However, according to the documents recently obtained by Bloomberg, shoppers were actually buying the entire inventory of Motrin, while attempting to fly under the FDA radar.
While Colleen Goggins, Johnson and Johnson’s consumer group chairman was testifying before Congress that the company had not intended to mislead anyone, recently uncovered emails suggest otherwise. The emails were exchanged between the company and a private contractor, Inmar, Inc. In the emails, Inmar is encouraged to keep their identity and mission secret, for fear of drawing attention of regulators. This effort “may draw suspicion to what we are doing,” said an email from Inmar to McNeil.
Representative Edolphus Towns called the move a “phantom recall.”
“These documents are extremely troubling ... We can’t tell where the spin ends and the truth begins,” Towns said in a statement.
Bonnie Jacobs, spokesperson for McNeil, disputed the FDA’s position:
“The FDA was kept fully informed of McNeil’s plans and actions throughout the process ... the objective was to remove the affected product ... with as little disruption and consumer confusion as possible,” said Jacobs.
Now McNeil is facing possible criminal penalties due to the Motrin recall.