As corporations race to gobble each other up in an endless quest to become bigger and richer and more profitable and ultimately, more powerful, they often forget that with mergers and acquisitions comes more liability. As the parent company takes on more subsidiaries, it becomes difficult to control quality – and behavior. And, like the parent of a minor child who causes someone an injury or damages property, the parent company likewise ends up being held responsible.
Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical giant that was once the “most trusted brand in America,” has had some problem maintaining its image in recent years. J & J's Ethicon division came under scrutiny when its pelvic slings, originally intended for the use of treating hernia, began causing serious health problems for women who had them implanted as they shrank and became embedded in surrounding tissue. In 2012, the company's Janssen Pharmaceuticals was investigated for downplaying the risks from side effects of its anti-psychotic medication, Risperdal. In 2012, the company paid out $181 in fines for marketing the drug for “off-label” purposes, such as treating anxiety and dementia. Then, there is of course the recent concerns over McNeil Consumer Healthcare's Tylenol – yet another member of Johnson & Johnson's “Family of Companies” (currently over 230 and counting).
At the same time, J&J has been in litigation with corporate rivals over patent and even trademark infringement (yes, this highly profitable, multi-billion dollar global corporation actually sued the American Red Cross over the use of its symbol).
J&J's legal problems aren't going away – and are probably only going to get worse. The media has recently reported that the company has issued a recall for at least one lot of the injectable version of Risperdal (Risperdal Consta), after testing revealed the presence of mold. Hard on the heels of this recall, it was discovered at the McNeil division that bottles of liquid Motrin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesic and fever medication, contained particles of plastic that could be ingested by infants. That product has also been recalled.
Company spokespersons say that the contamination in both cases originated at outside facilities operated by third-party manufacturers.
Whether or not Johnson & Johnson is directly responsible for the most recent problems, considered in the context of the company's recent history – and indeed, the entire history of these endless mergers and acquisitions that continue to concentrate power and wealth into fewer and fewer hands – it strongly suggests that bigger is not better. It's definitely not good for consumers, and considering how much it is costing J&J, not only in legal fees and settlements but in lost revenue as it loses credibility with the public, it's not good for business, either.
Hill, Michael. “NY AG: Janssen Pays $181M Over Drug Marketing.” Seattle Times, 30 August 2013.
Thomas, Katie. “New Recalls by Johnson & Johnson Raise Concern About Quality Control Improvements.” New York Times, 12 September 2013.
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