Bad PR for Johnson & Johnson: Another Recall Hurts the Tylenol Brand

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The McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit of Johnson & Johnson announced on Monday evening the recall of more than 128,000 bottles of Tylenol eight-hour caplets. The reasons behind the recall seem obscure. The company said in a statement that the recall follows customer complaints of a musty or moldy odor. McNeil Consumer Healthcare explains the odor to be caused by the presence of trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole.


The recall is being conducted with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it’s voluntary.

“This voluntary action is being taken as a precaution and the risk of adverse medical events is remote. To date, observed events reported to McNeil for this lot were temporary and non-serious,” the company said in the press statement following the recall.

This recall hurts Johnson & Johnson’s more recent PR efforts to assure customers and company employees that previous recalls of popular over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and Zyrtec did not reflect systemic problems across the corporation. William C. Weldon, the chief executive of Johnson & Johnson, recently assured the public that such recalls will not happen again. And yesterday, not even a month after his statement, the company is in the news again, for the same reason.

“From Johnson & Johnson’s perspective, our response to this issue was the most responsible it could possibly be,” Mr. Weldon said in a recent telephone interview with The New York Times. “We want to ensure nothing like this happens again.”

Over 150 million units of Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and Zyrtec were recalled over the last year, and one of the plants where they were produced, Fort Washington, has been temporarily closed, for an upgrade. Things went from bad to worse. Aside drugs, in recent months, the company has also recalled tens of thousands of artificial hip implants and several million contact lenses. The company was also criticized by the FDA for marketing the TruMatch™ Personalized Solutions System and the Corail® Hip System in the United States (U.S.) without the required marketing clearance or approval.

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