J&J chief hopes missing drugs return by year's end

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Johnson & Johnson CEO William Weldon (photo) tells Bloomberg he "has no plans" to retire. Well, if you'd just collected almost $29 million in compensation and won heaps of praise from your board of directors, would you want to exit stage left? The real shocker of this interview comes when Weldon expresses his hope that all the consumer products J&J recalled last year will be back on the market by the end of this year. As in, 10 months from now.

That's considerably longer than J&J had predicted last year in the aftermath of the massive children's drug recall. Its Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, plant was shuttered for revamping and most of its workers were laid off. Drugstore shelves were emptied of key J&J consumer products, such as Children's Tylenol and Children's Motrin. Although the company expected that plant to remain idle through year's end, it predicted new rollouts of the recalled meds to last through mid-2011.

The absence of recalled consumer drugs beginning in April cost J&J more than $600 million in 2010 sales. But it's not just dollars lost. It's shelf space and competitive advantage. Drugstores have filled in with store brands and rival meds. Makers of those drugs have taken advantage. And then there's the pesky fact that repeated recalls have tainted J&J's brand image.

The Fort Washington plant, along with another facility in Puerto Rico, is under an FDA consent decree. Restarting production will require the agency's blessing. Apparently, the challenge is one thing keeping Weldon ensconced in his CEO suite. "That's to me what is first and foremost in my mind," Weldon told the news service. "People that know me said I'll fix this problem and, you know, I will fix it."

- read the Bloomberg piece

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