Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson is the world’s most well-known producer of health-related goods. The company develops medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and consumer health goods in 250 subsidiary companies and divisions. Some of their most well-known products available today are Johnson’s Baby products, Band-Aids, and Tylenol but the company also makes hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter medications and medical devices.

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Johnson & Johnson Overview

Johnson & Johnson is the world’s most well-known producer of health-related goods including pharmaceuticals, consumer health products and medical devices. Well-known Johnson & Johnson brands include Band-aids, Johnson’s Baby products, Aveeno, and Neutrogena but about 45% of their sales come from the pharmaceutical division.

In 2019, Johnson & Johnson made over $100 billion in sales. Johnson & Johnson is well-established in 57 countries around the world and they employ about 132,000 people. In recent years, Johnson & Johnson has been involved in a number of medical injury lawsuits including the Johnson’s Baby Powder talc cancer lawsuits.

History of Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson was founded by three brothers named Robert, Edward, and James Johnson. The company was founded in 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. They initially focused on the production of wound care products like bandages and sutures, and baby products. The first products featured a logo resembling the signature of James Wood Johnson, which is similar to the logo used today. Robert Wood Johnson’s granddaughter, Mary Lea Johnson Richards was the first baby to appear on Johnson & Johnson baby products.

Johnson & Johnson provided supplies for soldiers wounded in the Spanish-American war and later sold first aid kits to railroad workers before they became widely available. They also sold health products related to baby and maternity care, making at-home childbirth safer and more hygienic and was one of the first companies to offer family planning products including spermicidal jelly, Ortho Gynol.

In 1944, Johnson & Johnson became a publicly traded company and acquired a groundbreaking company which became Ethicon, for the production of sterile surgical sutures. In 1959, J&J acquired McNeil Laboratories, maker of Tylenol and in 1961, acquired Janssen Pharmaceutica a German manufacturer of prescription medications. Since then, the company has acquired a number of other companies and brands including medical device company, DePuy Synthes, Centocor Biotech, Pfizer’s consumer health products including Listerine, Omrix biopharmaceutical company, and Megadyne Medical Products and Torax Medical, both medical device companies.

In the last decades, Johnson & Johnson has continued its acquisitions and expansions but has also added to its reputation as a philanthropic organization which has provided assistance during wartime and disasters. Today, the company is most known for their support of HIV/AIDS patients and children’s health.

Johnson & Johnson Products

Currently, Johnson & Johnson maintains focus in several areas including:

  • Consumer health – Skin care, self-care, essential health
  • Medical devices – orthopaedics, surgery, interventional solutions, vision
  • Pharmaceuticals – Immunology, cardiovascular & metabolic disease, pulmonary medicine, hypertension, neuroscience, oncology, infectious disease & vaccines

Under the pharmaceutical division, subsidiaries including Janssen pharmaceuticals and Actelion produce medications for a number of disease states.

Notable products that have been developed at Johnson & Johnson companies include:

  • Ortho-Gynol contraceptive jelly
  • Haldol (haloperidol) for schizophrenia
  • Ortho-Novum birth control pills
  • RhoGAM immune globulin for Rh disease of newborn
  • Procrit for certain types of anemia in cancer and AIDs patients
  • Remicade (infliximab) for autoimmune disorders
  • Adenovac platform for viral vaccines such as Ebola
  • Zytiga (abiraterone) for prostate cancer
  • Darzalex (daratumumab) for multiple myeloma

Eleven Janssen products are on the World Health Organization list of essential medicines.

Johnson & Johnson medical devices are produced by subsidiaries:

  • Ethicon – Surgical products
  • Acclarent – Ear, Nose and Throat products
  • Mentor Worldwide – Breast aesthetics
  • DePuy Synthes – orthopedics including bone and joint replacement devices
  • Biosense Webster – Arrhythmia interventions
  • Cerenovus – Neurovascular and stroke intervention

Johnson & Johnson consumer health products include:

  • Skin health – Aveeno, Neutrogena, Rogaine, Le Petit Marseillais, Clean and Clear and others
  • Self-care – Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec, Benadryl, Nicorette, Zarbee’s Naturals, Imodium, Visine, Pepcid, Sudafed and others
  • Essential Health – Listerine, Johnson’s baby products, Band-aid, OGX, Carefree, Stayfree and others

Johnson & Johnson Product Recalls and Lawsuits

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted multiple investigations of Johnson & Johnson related to the production and promotion of certain medications and other potentially dangerous products.

In some cases, Johnson & Johnson was required to issue recalls or may have been required to perform other actions. The company has faced numerous class action and large medical injury lawsuits due to problems with its products. Many of these lawsuits have been settled or resolved, but others may remain in court systems and have yet to be settled.

Tylenol and Other Recalls

A Tylenol recall was issued in 1982 after seven people died from cyanide poisoning. Over 30 million bottles of Tylenol had to be recalled but the problem was determined to be consumer tampering. The events led to an increased level of security in consumer packaging and has resulted in most capsules being solid-fill tablets with gel coating so they cannot be opened or have contents replaced.

Between 2009 and 2013, several McNeil products including Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec, Visine Eye Drops and other products were recalled when consumers complained that products had bacteria or metal pieces in them. A two-year FDA investigation concluded that Johnson & Johnson had violated manufacturing protocols which caused contamination to the products.

DePuy Hip Replacements

Johnson & Johnson acquired DePuy Synthes in 1998. DePuy remains a leading manufacturer of joint replacement products and was first to manufacture the metal-on-metal design for hip replacements. The DePuy Pinnacle Hip Replacement System, ASR Hip Resurfacing System, and the ASR XL Acetabular System have been used by about 70,000 patients in the U.S., many of whom were injured by the devices.

Though the ASR Hip products were recalled, DePuy and parent company, Johnson & Johnson have faced thousands of lawsuits for joint replacement injuries, some of which have settled but others which remain in court systems.

Ethicon Physiomesh

Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon division manufactures surgical products including a medical surgical mesh product, Physiomesh, used to stabilize abdominal tissue during and after a hernia repair procedure. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed due to injuries caused by the surgical mesh including organ perforation, mesh migration and even, death.

Ethicon also manufactured a similar product, Gynecare transvaginal mesh kids which were used for pelvic organ prolapse and bladder suspension surgery and caused similar problems including organ perforation, vaginal scarring, mesh erosion. Both products were recalled and are no longer available though the company continues to make other types of surgical mesh.

Blood Thinners

Johnson & Johnson’s blood thinning medications Pradaxa and Xarelto have been linked to serious bleeding events that have limited treatment available. Numerous patients have experienced serious bleeding, including thousands of serious adverse events and hundreds of deaths.  Lawsuits for the drugs Pradaxa and Xarelto reach into the tens of thousands and are still pending.

Johnson’s Talcum Powder

Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower-to-Shower powder products formerly contained talcum powder. Though the products were reformulated to be made of corn starch, some people used the products in the groin area for years, or even decades.

Research now shows that use of talcum powder in the genital area can lead to development of ovarian cancer in women. In other cases, consumers have been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. Johnson & Johnson is facing more than 6,550 lawsuits and though a few have gone to trial with judgements reaching into the $ millions, most lawsuits have not been settled.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.