Ever since the FDA and Congress started asking Johnson & Johnson to explain why it keeps recalling medicine, there have been references to an unpublicized “recall” that happened in November 2008. Last month, at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a J&J executive swore that the company didn’t mean to mislead anyone. It turns out that wasn’t exactly accurate: Bloomberg has obtained emails from J&J’s company, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, that show executives knew the secret recall would trigger an FDA reaction if the agency got wind of its full scope.
At the time, McNeil told the FDA that it was paying contractors to act as secret shoppers and buy up samples from between 4,500-5,000 stores, mostly gas stations and convenience stores. The company told the FDA about the plan, but the FDA says it was told that McNeil was only sampling from stores, and using secret shoppers to avoid confusing the public.
In reality, the shoppers had been instructed to buy all of the product, while pretending to be regular customers.