Monday, May 10, 2010

More J&J Shenanigans

As I suspected my Listerine experience mentioned in the last post was not just a one-off by J&J. It looks to be part of a pattern created by the top management placing quick growth and profits over ethics and long term reputation and performance.

Here are other recent instances:
  • The Justice Department in January accused J&J of bribing nursing home drug procurer Omnicare with tens of millions of dollars to buy and promote its drugs. The kickbacks allegedly increased J&J's sales through Omnicare from $100 million annually to $280 million. The inappropriately administered drugs like Risperdal increased the risk of death for many patients with dementia.
  • A subsequent March 11 BusinessWeek article (March 22-29 issue) reports an "explosion of litigation" by states against J&J over illegally marketing Risperdal for unapproved uses. The practices included getting paid doctors to plant questions from the audience so they could talk about off-label uses. J&J may end up paying billions to settle this.
  • Last week J&J recalled 40 of its pain and allergy drugs for children including children's Tylenol. These drugs were contaminated or had the wrong strength of ingredients, and J&J's may be guilty of criminal (not just civil) misconduct. It's ironical that the government is advising consumers for their children's safety to switch from branded J&J products to their generic equivalents.
  • BusinessWeek on April 29 reported J&J will pay over $81 million to settle criminal and civil cases over improper promotion of its drug Topamax.

J&J of course is not alone in cutting corners and acting improperly. It's just no better now than the rest, and the loss of its reputation is likely to cost it much after its current management and CEO have departed. To consumers that means being wary of it, and regret its exit from the small pool of iconic brands that we over the decades had learned to trust.