When companies are required to recall their products due to problems or reports of injury, the worst thing they can do is try to cover up the mistake, says Kevin Erb, a public relations and social media director. “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” that can tarnish a company’s public image, Erb told the Journal Gazette. Thus, companies should be prepared for product issues and recalls to arise and have a plan in place. Doing so, Erb said, sets the tone for media coverage and public reaction.
Erb’s sage advice should be noted by pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers, who often have to defend their products because of defects or adverse reactions that often result in warnings or recalls.
The 1982 Tylenol case is often used as a model for the right way to handle a product recall. Johnson & Johnson pulled the over-the-counter painkiller from stores across the country after reports of patient deaths. The deaths were caused by someone who put poison in bottles of the drugs and then placed them on stores shelves for purchase. Throughout the crisis, Johnson & Johnson took responsibility and expressed concern for public safety. Doing so didn’t require the company to admit fault. When the company reintroduced Tylenol, it did so with new tamper-resistant packaging, which has become the standard for over-the-counter medicine.
Unfortunately, Johnson & Johnson didn’t follow this same practice when in 2010 its subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics issued a worldwide recall on its ASR hip replacement system. The metal-on-metal artificial hip implant was blamed for early failures and blood poisonings that required thousands of people to undergo revision surgery to remove and replace their defective devices.
Though DePuy and its parent company Johnson & Johnson offered to pay for the revision surgeries, their offer falls short in the eyes of most patients who are suing the company for pain and suffering, loss of wages, and other incurred expenses. The lawsuits claim that the company should have known its devices were defective but continued to market them in order to enjoy soaring profits.
Source: Journal Gazette