There is a 12 noon (Eastern Standard Time) deadline for Johnson & Johnson to hand over some documents to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today. As a result, the Congressional stage is, once again, set for drama. The last time this committee demanded documents from J&J, the health care giant was accused of whizzing past the deadline, although the committee never followed through with its implied threat of issuing a subpoena (look here).
What is it the committee wants this time? A copy of an alleged agreement between J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which has recalled tens of millions of bottles of over-the-counter meds, and the FDA that supposedly gave McNeil a green light to pursue a "soft market withdrawal" instead of a formal recall. This supposed understanding with the FDA was mentioned in a May 27, 2009, email from Bob Miller, a quality compliance exec, to McNeil president Peter Luther and a few others (read this).
The public posturing has only added to the cloud over J&J, which has seen its storied coporate image sullied by pervasive and ongoing quality-control problems that the FDA found were never addressed sufficiently or on a timely basis. For its part, the committee has accused J&J of conducting a 'phantom recall' by hiring contractors to surreptitiously purchase Tylenol, Motrin and other products from stores. And the US Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia issued grand jury subpoenas and several state Attorneys General offices sent Civil Investigative Demands.
Next week, the committee plans another hearing at J&J ceo Bill Weldon is expected to testify. The last hearing took place in May, although Weldon was unable to attend and, instead, Colleen Goggins, who heads J&J's worldwide consumer group, testified. Last week, however, Goggins, 56, announced her retirement nearly 3o years with the company (see this).
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking... 12 noon is getting closer...
UPDATE: It is now 2 pm EST and, like you, we await word from the committee. We will update you as we hear anything.