US lawmaker presses J&J on recall, expands probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee expanded his investigation of Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday, saying another 2008 recall casts doubt on the drugmaker’s pledge of protecting consumers.

Chairman Edolphus Towns, in a letter to the drugmaker, asked the company for all records related to the 2008 recall of some adult versions of its Motrin pain reliever, including the identities of employees involved, as well as outside contractors and subcontractors who worked for J&J.

The letter follows a May 27 hearing on the latest J&J recall of more than 40 liquid children’s medications, including Children’s Tylenol.

At the hearing, Towns questioned the 2008 incident, calling it a “phantom recall” in which J&J-hired contractors were instructed to buy the Motrin products from various retailers, “‘act’ like a regular customer” and not mention any recall.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later found out about the purchases, J&J initiated a formal recall, Towns said, citing internal company documents the committee reviewed as part of its probe.

Colleen Goggins, worldwide chairman of J&J’s consumer group, told lawmakers at the hearing that J&J had sought to obtain certain Motrin products sold mostly at gasoline stations to determine whether a recall was needed.

J&J Spokesman Jeffrey Leebaw said on Tuesday the drugmaker would respond to Towns’ request.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by Gerald E. McCormick