NEW YORK (AP) — The head of the Johnson & Johnson division responsible for most of the company's 11 product recalls announced her retirement late Thursday, shortly after a congressional committee probing the recalls invited her to a second hearing on the case.
J&J, reeling from an unprecedented spate of recalls that includes more than 135 million bottles of infants' and children's Tylenol and other nonprescription medicines, said Colleen Goggins will retire on March 1 after almost 30 "successful and distinguished" years with the company.
J&J released the news just after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced it had set a second hearing on the case and had invited J&J Chief Executive Officer William Weldon, who sent Goggins in his place to the panel's first hearing in May. Goggins also has been invited to the Sept. 30 hearing.
The committee released some internal J&J e-mails it uncovered indicating that before all the official recalls over the last year, the company conducted a "phantom recall" of Motrin packages with questionable potency.
One e-mail indicates J&J paid a third party to quietly pull the Motrin packets off store shelves — with the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration.
"As you know we have negotiated an agreement with FDA not to formally conduct a recall for Motrin ... but rather conduct a 'soft market withdrawal.' This was a major win for us as it limits the press that will be seen," reads part of one e-mail chain released by the House committee's chair, Rep. Edolphus "Ed" Towns.
That May 27, 2009, e-mail was written by one executive at J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit to five colleagues there.
However, a staff aide on the House committee, Jenny Rosenberg, told The Associated Press, "We have no evidence that the FDA approved the phantom recall."
FDA spokeswoman Elaine Gansz Bobo said she had no information about the issue.
"It's still an ongoing investigation," said Bobo, whose agency has cited shoddy work and other problems at three J&J manufacturing plants it's inspected recently. One, in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, has been shut down.
A second e-mail indicates J&J and an outside contractor considered doing another "phantom recall," this time for Children's Tylenol, in July 2009.
Spokespeople for Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on either allegation, saying only that Weldon will testify at the new hearing.
J&J's once-golden reputation has been severely tarnished by nine recalls of nonprescription medicines, one of contact lenses and one of hip implants in 11 months.
The consumer product recalls have involved problems ranging from contamination with bacteria and a nauseating smell on containers to liquid medicines that may contain tiny metal shavings and drugs that may not have the correct amount of active ingredient.
The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company is the world's largest maker of health care products, selling everything from Band-Aids and Johnson's No More Tears baby shampoo to birth control and biotech drugs.
It won great respect for its "textbook" handling of the original Tylenol recall in 1982, when the company issued public warnings and pulled Tylenol bottles from stores around the country after a perpetrator, never caught, laced Tylenol bottles with cyanide in Chicago.
Weldon, who has been on the hot seat in the press for all the recalls, said in a press release that Goggins "has made major contributions to our success."
Goggins joined J&J in 1981 and became president of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies in 1995. She became a member of the executive committee, the company's top managers, in 2001.