Congress clips smoking e-mails to Weldon invite

The news that Colleen Goggins will retire as J&J's consumer group head, announced last Thursday, has proven a real headline-grabber, as well as a cautionary tale about the dangers of prioritizing corporate objectives over drug manufacturing quality control.  It has even eclipsed important details contained in the invitation of the same date for J&J CEO Bill Weldon to appear before Congress in its investigation of the Tylenol recalls.

The invitation, from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chair Edolphus Towns, carries with it e-mail attachments from 2009 that appear to show the planning of a phantom recall of Children's Tylenol, to be conducted as soon as a similar operation is completed for Motrin. The e-mails contradict testimony given by Goggins in May, when she spoke on the matter. The e-mail string, incidentally, also paints a business-as-usual picture at Tylenol as managers address the customary corporate difficulties of getting a purchase order in motion, in management's lack of awareness of the status of the potentially explosive situation, and in the predictable managerial weigh-in on a projected cost overrun.

Towns tells Weldon in the invitation that the phantom recalls are of high interest in the congressional investigation. He also notes that the timing of the e-mail messages--nearly a year before the massive Children's Tylenol recall--poses a troubling question: "Was Johnson & Johnson aware of problems with Children's Tylenol and other children's medicines months before it actually recalled these products?"

Another troubling matter concerns the Tylenol/FDA relationship. One e-mail clearly references a negotiated agreement with the regulator "not to formally conduct a recall for Motrin 8's but rather conduct a 'soft market withdrawal.'"

- see the invitation and e-mail attachments
- here's the Goggins retirement release

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