House committee mulls 'further action' after J&J misses document deadline

U.S. lawmakers may resort to their subpoena power to get Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) to hand over documents to a congressional committee investigating recent recalls. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said last night that J&J had not met its 4 p.m. deadline for coughing up those documents--and that the committee is mulling its next steps.

"If necessary to ensure cooperation with the Committee's investigation, further action will be taken," spokeswoman Jenny Rosenberg told CNNMoney. Sources close to the process told CNN that Chairman Edolphus Towns may exercise his unilateral subpoena power to get the info he wants.

The committee is probing McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the J&J unit that has been drawing so much fire lately. McNeil manufacturing problems have spawned several recalls in recent months, and Congress is digging into those recalls, questioning whether the FDA and McNeil did enough to protect consumers from potentially contaminated products. Most recently, Towns' committee demanded documents related to a so-called "phantom recall" of Motrin tablets, not only from McNeil, but also from contractors it hired to buy up packets of the drug from retailers.

A McNeil spokeswoman told CNN late yesterday that the company had complied with the committee's latest document request. "[W]e have submitted documents they requested," the company told the network. "We look forward to continuing to cooperate with the Committee." But after McNeil issued that statement, the committee still maintained that the documents hadn't been forthcoming. A committee spokeswoman told Pharmalot as late as this morning that last night's statement about the missed deadline "stands."

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