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Originally published September 30, 2010 at 6:44 PM | Page modified September 30, 2010 at 6:55 PM

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Hearing learns about secret recall efforts by Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson executives and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shouldered the blame Thursday for a secret recall in which hired...

WASHINGTON — Johnson & Johnson executives and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shouldered the blame Thursday for a secret recall in which hired contractors quietly bought up defective painkillers to clear them from store shelves.

J&J Chief Executive William Weldon told House lawmakers the company "made a mistake" in conducting the "phantom recall," one of many J&J problems that have drawn congressional scrutiny.

At the same hearing, the FDA's deputy commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, said his agency should have acted sooner to halt J&J's plan. At the same time, he stressed that regulators were not aware of the deceptive nature of the recall.

Sharfstein and Weldon testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which held its second hearing on J&J's spate of recalls. The largest, involving more than 135 million bottles of infants' and children's Tylenol and other medicines, triggered the committee's investigation.

"We recognize that we need to do better, and we will work hard to restore the public's trust and faith in Johnson & Johnson," Weldon told lawmakers.

The maker of trusted brands such as Tylenol and Benadryl, J&J has announced nine recalls of drugs for children and adults since September 2009 with problems ranging from too much active ingredient to tiny shards of metal.

Members of Congress headed home Thursday until after the midterm elections Nov. 2. The end-of-session agenda included:

• A bill passed late Wednesday by the Senate to require television stations and cable companies to keep commercials at the same volume as the programs they interrupt. The House has passed similar legislation. Minor differences between the versions have to be worked out.

• A legislative blueprint for NASA's future that would extend the life of the space-shuttle program for a year while backing President Obama's intent to use commercial carriers to carry humans into space. Obama will sign the measure, which passed the House on a 304-118 vote.

• The first intelligence-authorization bill since 2004, with compromise language on demands by Congress for greater access to top-secret intelligence. The most secret briefings will be provided only to top congressional leaders, but members of the intelligence panels will receive a general description. The House cleared the measure for Obama.

• A House-passed measure, already approved by the Senate, to rename an Alaska mountain after the late Sen. Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash in August. South Hunter Peak, south of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve, will become Stevens Peak.

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