By Richard Lenti
It may be a new year, but it’s the same old headaches for the maker of Tylenol. Johnson and Johnson says production problems continue to plague factories that manufacture the popular pain reliever, causing “supply uncertainty” for many Tylenol products.
“In the coming months, while we are going through changes at several of our manufacturing sites, you may not be able to find Tylenol Arthritis Pain on store shelves. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate how frustrating this must be for you,” the company says in a statement on its website.
Johnson and Johnson also said it was trying to make more Extra Strength Tylenol caplets and regular strength Tylenol tablets “available more consistently in stores.”
Because of spot shortages of Tylenol products, CVS is changing how it stocks the pain reliever in its drug stores. CVS will carry Tylenol in only about half of its 7,400 stores, spokesman Michael DeAngelis told Reuters. Empty store shelves normally stocked with Tylenol will instead carry CVS private-label products.
CVS is the first retailer to announce a change in how it will stock Tylenol in its stores. The move could be profitable for the company as private-label products tend to cost less than brand-name products.
Since 2009, there have been more than two dozen recalls involving millions of bottles of Johnson & Johnson products including Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin and other over-the-counter medicines.
The troubles began when the J&J’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit began getting complaints about a musty, moldy odor in many of its Tylenol products. An FDA investigation found that the odor was caused by airborne contamination from a pesticide and a wood preservative used to treat wooden pallets.
There were also cases of over-the-counter products containing minute pieces of wood and metal , or medicines contaminated with infectious bacteria. Some Tylenol products for children were found to be too potent and some Motrin tablets were ineffective.
While J&J has struggled to upgrade its factories and ramp up manufacturing of Tylenol, consumers have had plenty of time to try store brands and decide if they’re willing to pay more for Tylenol.
In 2009, Tylenol had 56 percent of the U.S. market share for acetaminophen, the generic name of Tylenol. Three years later, it was down to 24%. Over the same period, private-label market share nearly doubled from 32% to 62%. In the past year, total sales for McNeil Consumer Healthcare have fallen by 4%.