Thursday, January 13, 2011

The notion of "corporate citizenship:" A brief timeline

How things change.

That was Johnson & Johnson in 1982:

Tylenol made a hero of Johnson & Johnson : The recall that started them all

It has been almost two decades since a consumer products company's worst nightmare became tragic reality for Johnson & Johnson. In the space of a few days starting Sept. 29, 1982, seven people died in the Chicago area after taking cyanide-laced capsules of Extra-Strength Tylenol, the painkiller that was the drugmaker's best-selling product.

Marketers predicted that the Tylenol brand, which accounted for 17 percent of the company's net income in 1981, would never recover from the sabotage. But only two months later, Tylenol was headed back to the market, this time in tamper-proof packaging and bolstered by an extensive media campaign. A year later, its share of the $1.2 billion analgesic market, which had plunged to 7 percent from 37 percent following the poisoning, had climbed back to 30 percent.

What set apart Johnson & Johnson's handling of the crisis from others? It placed consumers first by recalling 31 million bottles of Tylenol capsules from store shelves and offering replacement product in the safer tablet form free of charge. […]

James Burke, the company's chairman, was widely admired for his leadership in the decision to pull Tylenol capsules off the market, and for his forthrightness in dealing with the media. In a news conference only a month and a half after the tragedy, he gave a full chronology of what the company had done. "He looked in complete control," said [Albert] Tortorella [a managing director at Burson-Marsteller Inc., the New York public relations firm that advised Johnson & Johnson].

This is Johnson & Johnson in 2011:

Oregon sues Johnson & Johnson for leaving flawed Motrin on store shelves

Lynn Walther was bothered by his instructions to secretly buy up faulty pain relievers from Salem-area stores.

So in June 2009, he faxed his employer's orders to Oregon pharmacy regulators. "Something was wrong," Walther said.

He never heard back from them, but the Oregon man's whistleblowing fax triggered a federal investigation into health care giant Johnson &  Johnson.

This week, Attorney General John Kroger sued the conglomerate and two subsidiaries, claiming they left eight-capsule packets of Motrin on Oregon store shelves for months after learning the product was defective.

Citing e-mail traffic from the company and federal regulators, Kroger charged that the company deliberately withheld word of the defect from retailers and the public.

The pharmaceutical giant discovered at the end of 2008 that its Motrin caplets didn't dissolve properly and thus were ineffective in relieving pain, the suit says. But instead of ordering an official recall to alert consumers, the company hired a contractor to scour stores across the country and buy up the defective Motrin.

The company finally conducted a formal recall, but more than a year after discovering the faulty batch and then only under pressure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. [...]

William Weldon, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, admitted in congressional testimony last September that the company had conducted a "phantom recall." He said the company didn't tell federal regulators it was buying its own product off the shelves.

(Emphasis added.)

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