On the eve of Johnson & Johnson's annual meeting, CEO William Weldon, who's 62, discussed the company's string of 22 product recalls over 20 months, plans to regain lost customers and his future.
Here are some excerpts of his interview with The Associated Press:
Q: It's now about 20 months and you just had another recall (of epilepsy drug topiramate, because bottles had an odd chemical odor that's caused many prior recalls). How can this still be happening?
A: There's lots of reasons this can happen. With topiramate, we're trying to get to the root cause of this ... a preservative on wooden pallets that breaks down and migrates into the packaging material. If we find a little bit of this in any of our products, we will recall the batch. ... Not all the problems are manufacturing issues.
Q: After 20 months, are all the recalls over?
A: We are hoping that most of this is behind us, but any recall is unacceptable and we're endeavoring to make sure we never have recalls. But I would never like to use the word never. We're doing everything we can and we're committed to the quality of our products.
Q: How are you going to lure back consumers you were already losing to cheaper store brands before the recalls?
A: We will work very hard to restore confidence in these products. We'll have a marketing campaign and will talk about the commitment J&J has to patients and the ongoing commitment we have to ensuring we invest in continuing innovations.
Q: Are you thinking about stepping down, given how long this has gone on and how it has hurt the company's image?
A: My plans right now are to ensure that we have remedied the problems that we've been dealing with in 2010, that we work hard to make sure that we are winning back the reputation that we had and that we continue to innovate for patients. Those are the things I'm focused on. ... I have no plans for retirement at this point in time.