Earlier in her career, the New York native served as an executive at a few American companies.
In 1999, she became a senior vice president at drugmaker Merck & Co.'s prescription benefit management business, Medco. She played a role in Medco's 2003 spinoff as an independent company. She then was a group president of Medco Health Solutions Inc., which became part of what's now called Express Scripts Holding Co. this summer.
Peterson previously served as an executive at foodmaker Nabisco, now part of Kraft Foods Inc., and at appliances manufacturer Whirlpool Corp. She also worked on product development and brand marketing strategies while a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. from 1987 through 1993.
"Sandy Peterson is an experienced global leader known for her strategic thinking and proven track record in growing businesses," Gorsky said in a statement.
Gorsky has said his priorities include restoring quality and ending recalls in the company's consumer health business, plus rounding out the executive team.
Consumer health is the smallest of J&J's three business segments, with sales of $14.9 billion last year, but it's far and away the most visible division to the general public.
Its many brands have long been staples on the shelves of pharmacies, grocery stores and discounters, from the iconic Johnson & Johnson's Band-Aids and No More Tears baby shampoo to o.b. tampons and Aveeno and Neutrogena skin care products.
In the past three years, it's had an eye-popping series of more than two dozen product recalls, for nonprescription medicines including Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and Sudafed. Reasons range from tiny glass and metal shards in some liquid medicines to the wrong levels of active ingredients and nauseating odors in product packaging.
Besides tarnishing the image of a company that insists it still follows its credo of putting patients, doctors and employees ahead of profits, the recalls have hurt J&J's finances, costing it more than $1 billion in lost sales. That's a key reason total company revenue declined in 2009 and 2010, a first since the Depression. In addition, J&J has cited higher-than-expected remediation costs as it rebuilds one of its consumer products factories from the ground up, and two others have production slowed by increased government scrutiny.