J&J seeks to improve quality image through hirings

In the wake of the recalls by its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is looking to hire people to help improve quality in that division.

J&J's consumer drug division has take a gigantic hit in recent months after a massive recall of children's drugs made at a plant in Fort Washington, PA, that's since been shut down for a production overhaul. Both that plant and another in Lancaster, PA, have drawn FDA enforcement actions after failing agency inspections. The company also drew fire during congressional hearings for a so-called "phantom recall," in which it hired contractors to buy up suspect packets of Motrin rather than immediately declare an official recall.

To combat these and other problems, the unit has advertised openings recently for at least 17 jobs devoted to ensuring that its drugs meet high quality standards, the Wall Street Journal notes. Since early June, J&J's career website has posted openings for more McNeil quality-related jobs, with titles such as "senior manager, quality assurance investigation and technical support," "principal quality engineer" and "manager, quality assurance." The company declined to comment on the postings.

And J&J made a big quality hiring yesterday with the naming of company veteran Ajit Shetty to head a new management team responsible for overseeing manufacturing and quality control issues, the Star Ledger reports. The appointment gives him responsibility for medical devices as well as for the beleaguered consumer healthcare unit. He will report directly to CEO Bill Weldon (photo).

Most big drug makers have openings for quality-related jobs at any given time, but McNeil's current crop of postings appears to be bigger than normal, says David Jensen, managing director at executive-search firm Kincannon & Reed, as quoted by the WSJ. "It might be a little bit more in depth because they're having troubles right now," he adds.

- see the WSJ report
- read more from the Star Ledger

ALSO: Fortune has a profile of J&J that includes a history of quality after the 1982 Tylenol episode. In the mid-90s, McNeil was known for quality, especially under Ralph Larsen. During his tenure, McNeil's quality-control department thrived for a few years. Then, not long after Larsen retired in 2002, it began to slowly weaken. Profile