J&J fights to regain trust of US shoppers

31 August 2010

NEW JERSEY: Johnson & Johnson, the healthcare specialist, is seeking to regain the trust of shoppers after recalling several products over the last few months.

The company has withdrawn nine non-prescription medicines such as Bendryl and Tylenol Arthritis, as well as contact lenses and hip implants, in just under a year.

In April, it followed this course for 136m bottles of liquid medicines aimed at children and infants, in case they contained extremely small metal particles or too much active ingredient.

Problems at the corporation's McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant were behind most issues, and this outlet has since closed down.

While no major injuries have resulted, the organisation's long-established reputation among Americans is facing unparalleled scrutiny.

"We've learned a lot of lessons. They've been very painful," Bill Weldon, Johnson & Johnson's chief executive, told The Associated Press in an interview.

"We're doing everything we can anyplace in Johnson & Johnson to make sure this never happens again."

Steps implemented thus far include investigating standards at all 120 factories and attempting to identify better ways of sharing "best practice" across its supply chain.

A director for quality control and three "chief quality officers" to handle its consumer, prescription drug and medical device divisions respectively have also taken up positions.

Weldon revealed he had been sent letters by members of the public, with "some supportive and some not."

Johnson & Johnson might run a communications campaign in a bid to re-engage customers, although this would not be prior to the reintroduction of around 40 non-prescription medicines affected by recent events.

"I think the best thing we can do is get [these items] back on store shelves for the people that need them," said Weldon. "From there we will have to go back and earn our reputation."

Even in this area, Johnson & Johnson has experienced further obstacles, attracting regulatory attention.

In late August the company received a warning from the Food and Drug Administration, which stated Johnson & Johnson may be marketing two hip and knee implants in a manner breaking official protocol.

Al Ries, chairman at consultants Ries & Ries, argued the "unprecedented" number of recalls should be forgotten in time, but considerable work still needs to be done.

More specifically, he agreed ads declaring "everything is terrific" typically only deliver an impact opposite to that intended, meaning resolving problems must be the priority.

"If I were the ceo, I would call a special board meeting and I would resign," he continued, suggesting if this motion was rejected, significant other internal reforms are required.

Data sourced from Associated Press; additional content by Warc staff