Congress probes J&J's 'phantom recall'

As if Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) wasn't under enough pressure over its recent recall of more than 40 children's drugs, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has broadened its probe of J&J unit McNeil Consumer Healthcare. Chairman Edolphus Towns is now formally investigating a 2008 recall of McNeil-made Motrin, just as he promised after last week's committee hearing.

At that hearing, J&J and FDA reps were questioned about that recall--which was prompted by an alleged "phantom recall" in which J&J contractors bought up stocks of suspect drug packets rather than formally pull them off the market. Now, Towns has written J&J asking for all records related to the 2008 Motrin snafu, including the names of employees, contractors and subcontractors involved.

J&J has said that the contractor purchases were intended to be a sampling of the suspect Motrin, collected for testing to determine whether a recall would be necessary. A spokesman tells Reuters that the company would respond to Towns' latest request.

That Motrin recall was the first of several to afflict McNeil. And according to the FDA, it prodded the agency into closer attention to the J&J unit. FDA stepped up inspections and found repeated manufacturing problems--a "pattern of non-compliance," according to FDA Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein. The FDA's investigation of McNeil is ongoing, and the company says it is probing the problems as well.

- read the Reuters piece