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Alex Gorsky, the incoming chief executive of Johnson & Johnson, is looking to increase the pace of returning recalled products to store shelves as he works to rehabilitate the US healthcare company’s battered reputation.
“The most important thing I can do is get product back on the shelf,” Mr Gorsky told the Financial Times. “That’s our one, two and three focus. We recognise that to win consumers back will be a challenge for us.”
Mr Gorsky was appointed in February to replace William Weldon and takes over the top job at the company’s shareholder meeting on Thursday.
His promotion comes as J&J tries to emerge from a tumultuous and costly period, with embarrassing product recalls and lawsuits eating into its profits and tarnishing its image.
J&J’s struggling consumer business will be at the top of Mr Gorsky’s agenda. Last week as J&J reported its first-quarter earnings the company lamented that popular recalled products such as Children’s Tylenol had been slow to return to retailers, and this was holding back progress in its consumer business.
“We’re disappointed in the fact that some of those events occurred,” Mr Gorsky said.
“I take personal responsibility and accountability to get it repaired and get it right.”
J&J lost about $900m in sales in 2010 related to recalls in its consumer division.
Earlier this year it took charges of more than $3bn due to the recall of faulty artificial hips.
This month the company was told to pay $1.1bn in penalties for misleading doctors and patients about the risks associated with its antipsychotic drug, Risperdal.
Mr Gorsky declined to comment on whether he would give sworn testimony in a lawsuit that claims J&J paid kickbacks to Omnicare, a pharmacy services company, to boost sales of Risperdal to nursing home patients.
Earlier this month a US judge said Mr Gorsky should be ordered to testify because as head of J&J’s Janssen unit he knew about its marketing policies.
Beyond J&J’s image problems, Mr Gorsky said he will be working hard to integrate Synthes, the Swiss orthopaedic devices group that it acquired last year for $21.3bn.
While rival Pfizer has reversed course and is shedding assets to become more focused and nimble, Mr Gorsky said scale remains a crucial asset to J&J.
He said that the company gained consumer insights from the consumer division and that it was working to create new drugs and drug delivery systems that worked together through its pharmaceutical and medical device businesses.
“We think having a broad diversified platform is still a very important strategic strength for us,” Mr Gorsky said.