J&J assumes QA inspector role at Crucell

In an ironic twist, J&J ($JNJ) is again forced to probe quality matters, only this time at another company's plant. Its acquisition target Crucell has suspended operations at a South Korean facility and temporarily halted shipments of two products due to contamination concerns.

Just last month, J&J trumpeted Crucell's "operational excellence in manufacturing and supply chain." Meanwhile, the drug giant is in the midst of its own operations quality and supply chain overhaul at 250 operating units.

The affected products are the Dutch drugmaker's pentavalent vaccine Quinvaxem and its hepatitis B vaccine Hepavax-Gene. Although it expects to resume shipping this month following an investigation, full availability of the vaccines is expected in February. J&J says it's working with Crucell to understand the contamination issue.

The manufacturing problem has put Crucell in a position similar to Genzyme's. Both companies have big suitors, and in both cases operations quality issues are contributing to the difference between what the suitor wants to pay and what the company thinks it's worth.

In Genzyme's case, that difference is $3 billion. In Crucell's case, investors have called and extraordinary general meeting to discuss J&J's $2.43 billion offer. But the contamination issue is likely to play into any re-thinking of the drug giant's position.

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