States investigate Johnson & Johnson's recalls

By Parija Kavilanz, senior writing


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A multi-state investigation into Johnson & Johnson's handling of drug recalls is under way, CNNMoney has learned.

People familiar with the investigations confirmed the probes. At least 14 states are involved in the effort, according to one source.

The scope of the multi-state investigation was not clear.

Johnson & Johnson declined to comment.

The company has been dogged for over a year by a series of product recalls and critical oversight actions by the Food and Drug Administration and federal lawmakers.

On Wednesday, Oregon became the first state to file a lawsuit against J&J over a "phantom" recall of Motrin drugs.

The suit alleges that the company's McNeil division sold faulty Motrin drugs in gas stations and convenience stores nationwide in 2008, and then secretly removed the products from store shelves.

Instead of issuing a public recall, the Oregon suit alleges, J&J hired contractors to go into stores in early 2009 and secretly buy the faulty products without telling wholesalers, retailers or consumers about the problem.

McNeil said the company's actions on the Motrin removal were "consistent with applicable law" and that it would seek to have the Oregon lawsuit dismissed.

The public first learned of the phantom recall when details of it emerged last June during a congressional hearing addressing a series of other Johnson & Johnson recalls. Company executives as well as FDA officials were questioned about an attempt to surreptitiously take Motrin off store shelves.

After months of maintaining that the company did not engage in any deceptive practices in the Motrin recall, J&J CEO William Weldon admitted to lawmakers in September that J&J secretly bought up defective drugs without informing regulators and consumers of its actions. To top of page

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