Last week watching Mad Men, when I heard Don Draper’s pitch to Dow Chemical about the wonders of Napalm (coincidently just as the country was recognizing the 40th anniversary of that iconic photo), I thought, "wow, if Don Draper were alive today – er, I mean a fictional TV character today - have I gotta company for him"!
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has agreed to pay as much as $2.2 billion to settle U.S. probes of the marketing of its Risperdal antipsychotic drug and other medications [i.e., the heart-failure drug Natrecorand the anti-psychotic medication Invega].
The settlement, which might be announced this week, will include a misdemeanor plea and criminal penalty of as much as $600 million… The accord also would resolve civil claims that J&J paid kickbacks to Omnicare Inc. (OCR), a company that dispenses drugs at nursing homes, the people said.
Read more here.
This comes on the heels of the company agreeing to stop selling vaginal mesh implants, which it improperly put on the market (see our earlier coverage here) and which subsequently injured or killed hundreds of women. And as if that were not enough:
- J&J faces over 6,000 lawsuits from patients severely harmed after receiving a DePuy artificial hip known as ASR. According to victims, the ASRs – 93,000 of which DePuy recalled worldwide in 2010, including 37,000 in the U.S., since more than 12 percent of the devices failed within five years – caused joint dislocations, infections, bone fractures and other painful injuries.
- Thousands of cases are pending in federal and state courts over J&J’s alleged failure to adequately warn consumers about the risk of tendon damage and tendon ruptures associated with the antibiotic Levaquin.
- In April 2011, J&J reached a $70 million settlement over federal charges that it paid bribes and kickbacks to win business overseas. Under the agreement, the company pledged to pay a $21.4 million fine to settle Justice Department criminal charges and more than $48.6 million to settle SEC charges.
- In March 2011, J&J’s McNeil subsidiary and two of its executives reached a consent decree with the FDA and the Justice Department over the company’s repeated unwillingness to comply with federally-mandated manufacturing practices. The agreement put McNeil’s Las Piedras, PR, Fort Washington, PA and Lancaster, PA plants under FDA supervision, required the company to adhere to a strict timetable to bring those facilities into compliance and threatened thousands of dollars in fines for decree violations, up to $10 million annually.
- In January 2011, the company recalled nearly 50 million bottles and packages of consumer products, including Tylenol, Benadryl and Rolaids, due to lax cleaning procedures and other problems at its McNeil Fort Washington, PA manufacturing plant.
- Also in January 2011, the state of Oregon filed a lawsuit, alleging that J&J and two subsidiaries endangered public health and safety by failing to notify consumers and retailers about defective Motrin for more than a year before recalling the product. According to state AG John Kroger, the companies conducted a “phantom recall” – hiring contractors to go into stores to secretly buy vials off shelves to avoid negative publicity – in direct violation of the state’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. This Motrin buyback program came to light during a 2010 congressional investigation into recalls of over-the-counter McNeil drugs.
- In December 2010, J&J recalled over 13 million packages of Rolaids after metal and wood particles were found in the antacids, causing vomiting, gum and tooth injury in some cases.
- In May 2010, J&J’s McNeil unit pled guilty to a federal misdemeanor and was ordered to pay a $6.14 million criminal fine for promoting off-label use of its anti-seizure and migraine medication, Topamax. An affiliate of McNeil also agreed to pay over $75 million for illegally promoting the drug and causing false claims to be submitted to the government for unapproved uses.
- In April 2010, J&J’s McNeil recalled more than 135 million packages of children’s and infant’s Motrin, Tylenol, Benadryl and Zyrtec for possible bacterial contamination and the presence of small metal parts. The tainted pediatric drugs had been produced at McNeil’s Fort Washington, PA plant.
The company even endangered babies with its signature Baby Shampoo line. In November 2011, J&J finally agreed to phase out the use of potentially cancer-causing chemicals in its baby products.
And that's just the recent stuff.
Last but by no means least, there's the problem of J&J’s longtime association with the tainted American Legislative Exchange Council (which we last covered here ). ALEC has already “lost the support of 18 corporations in recent months,” and J&J is being pressured to become #19. (See today’s op ed by Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, the largest online black civil rights organization. )
My guess? Even Don Draper would agree with that.
UPDATE: J&J has dropped ALEC!