Friday, February 24, 2012


Whenever I think of the brand Johnson and Johnson, I think of being stuck on Band-Aids, putting baby powder on one my children's tush or using baby shampoo which doesn't make them cry. It is a brand which evokes feelings of home and warmth, softness and fresh baby smells, a family putting out safe and simple products for us to use. Then I wake up and realize J&J is a corporation and they will do anything to make a buck no matter who gets hurt.

Johnson and Johnson has been in the news lately because they had to recall hundreds of thousands of bottles of infant's Tylenol. This comes at a time when the company has been hit with a series of quality control problems. Since 2009, they had had to recall millions of bottles of Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin and Zyrtec. Metal shavings were found in some bottles. Others had incorrect levels of an active ingredient and still others stunk when you opened the bottle. The company was sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) numerous times. It lost billions in sales because of the problems. It kept claiming the problem had been solved only to have to issue another recall. Its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit is a disaster and has had to close at least one factory because of quality issues. The latest recall raises serious questions about the company's standards and practices. Corporate executives say they are positive they fixed the problem and the company is now headed in the right direction. This is corporate-speak for, " much do we have to spend to goose sales and is there a way to sell these products without losing profits by spending too much on quality control?"

It is important to never forget corporations are interested in one much money they can make and how cheaply they can fashion a product in order to maximize those profits. There is no such thing as a "good" corporation. Just ask Ben and Jerry...oh, you can't because they were forced out due to an excessive commitment to giving profits to charity.

I wouldn't be writing this if J&J hadn't popped up in the news for another typical corporate action. Another part of the company, the DePuy orthopedic division, was told by the FDA it could not sell a device used in hip replacement surgery in the U.S. Despite handpicking the surgeons to do a safety study, the FDA said it was inadequate and more information was necessary. It sent DePuy a letter refusing to certify the implant for sale in the U.S. This was in 2009. J&J never told anyone it had been turned down. Instead, they started to sell the product in Europe where the regulation is more lax. The implant was rejected in the U.S. because the company couldn't prove it was safe. Instead of fixing it, Johnson and Johnson just started selling it somewhere else. Unsuspecting European customers had no idea what they were getting.

It wasn't as if Johnson and Johnson didn't know there was a problem. They got the non-approval letter in 2009. In 2003 they were told the implant needed further trials, but few were done and no changes made in the design. In 2005, they used a loophole in FDA regulations to sneak a similar device into the U.S. market for hip replacements without "any" clinical testing. The company received hundreds of complaints about the device, but as recently as 2010, DePuy insisted the device was safe. They have since re-called both versions of the device worldwide.

They couldn't sell it in the U.S. in 2003, so they did an end run around the FDA and sold a version of it to unsuspecting American customers. The safety trials they conducted were inadequate, so they were turned down again for U.S. sales, so they started selling the defective implants in Europe. The company faces thousands of lawsuits. (They have set aside $3 billion to cover their exposure) Oh, the company never told stockholders the FDA has turned them down.

The moment you forget a corporation is a corporation, you are doomed. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and all the others in the chic tech world, try to create an image of being hip and having values and how much they care about their customers and users. Google even says its mission statement is to do no evil. Are you kidding me? The reality is they will do whatever they have to do to make a buck and ethics and morality are just buzz words that have no place in corporate boardrooms. (Do you really want to know the conditions people are working under to make your latest I Phone or I Pad?)

I have said numerous times, the United States Chamber of Commerce is the most evil organization in America. It is the lobbying and enforcement arm of corporate America. Its job is to weaken regulations and open paths for corporations to sell anything and damn the consequences. Their support for regressive Republicans is based on the GOP commitment to eliminating all regulations on all products sold in this country. Every time you hear Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul railing against the regulatory environment foisted on this country by Progressives, remember Johnson and Johnson. As a professor of mine once said...a word to the wise is usually sufficient.


  1. Well apparently your myriad of regulations didn't catch Johnson and Johnson did it?

    1. Did you notice, Anonymous, that the recalls and the non-approval letter of the implant were done during the Obama administration and the loopholes and end run were during the George W. Bush administration?

  2. Right as always Bernie! Take care of yourself..

    Steve, Sacramento