When Johnson and Johnson’s McNeil Pharmaceuticals discovered that Motrin tablets on drugstore shelves might be faulty, the company hired contractors to purchase all the affected Motrin they could find in stores.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Lynn Walther, who works for a Portland, Ore., inventory company, said that he was “hired by a contractor to walk into convenience stores and quietly buy specific lots of Motrin IB caplet eight-count vials. Though he said his purchases often were met with puzzled looks from store owners, Walther said he had been told not to give the stores an explanation” (see the video below and “Contractor Questions Order to Remove Motrin From Shelves“).

Walther was following the instructions he’d been given. “You should simply act like a regular customer while making these purchases,” the document said. “There must be no mention of this being a recall of the product. Run in, find the product, make your purchase and run out.”

This “secret recall” program was authorized by Colleen A. Goggins, Worldwide Chairman, Consumer Group, Johnson & Johnson. Goggins testified before Congress that there was no effort at concealment. Since then, Goggins has fallen on the sword for J&J and tendered her resignation as of March 2011 (see here). I imagine that she is not likely to appear before Congress again for fear of facing perjury charges.

J&J defends itself by claiming it’s actions were NOT secret at all — it did the “recall” with the full knowledge of the FDA, a claim the FDA seems to deny. Listen to the ABC interview for the details.

One wonders how common it is for drug companies to engage in secret recalls like this?