As part of the probe into the Johnson & Johnson recall scandal, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform had asked the healthcare giant to provide certain documents by 4 pm EST today. But J&J blew past that deadline and, as of 6:15 pm, has still not complied, although a source close to the investigation last week told us that 20,000 or so pages have documents had been delivered.
In a May 28 letter, committee chair Ed Towns asked J&J to provide all records relating to what he calls a "phantom recall" of Motrin from stores. This is the famous episode in which contractors for J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit retrieved merchandise, but employees weren't allowed to use the word 'recall' (background). He also wants info on all J&J employees involved in this fiasco and whether J&J has ever done anything like this before and, if so, to cough up those documents as well.
Having missed the deadline, a committee spokesperson says that "if necessary to ensure cooperation with the committee’s investigation, further action will be taken.” In case you were wondering, under committee rules, Towns has unilateral subpoena power, although he has not yet indicated that he intends to pursue this path. On other hand, it has not been ruled out. We await word from J&J.
This may yet be resolved quickly, but Towns is clearly happy to apply pressure. He refused to delay a May 27 hearing because J&J ceo Bill Weldon was unable to appear due to back surgery. Consequently, the public saw someone other than the ceo in front of the cameras. By missing the deadline, J&J only undermines its efforts to minimize fallout from a recall that threatens to shake parental confidence in its products and sully its image on a long-term basis. Given that drugmakers are often accused of data dumping in litigation, we wonder why J&J simply didn't pursue the same tactic here and deny Towns a chance to make the company look bad.
UPDATE: At 9:30 pm, a J&J spokeswoman wrote to say the documents requested were submitted. However, this morning, a committee spokeswoman says the statement from last night "stands." So....stay tuned.