We'll soon know how much of a hit Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) reputation has taken from that spate of recalls over the past year or so. The company finally started shipping children's Tylenol again--grape-flavored liquid versions, to be exact. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the question now is whether parents will flock back to the drug or stick with alternatives they used while the branded version has been unavailable.
J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit has suffered a series of recalls since last year, but by far the biggest was its children's drug recall, which affected 35 million bottles of Tylenol, Motrin and other meds. After that snafu, the company shut down the Pennsylvania plant where the drugs were made and has since been revamping it--and retraining employees--in preparation for re-introducing the products. This new batch of children's Tylenol isn't made at the Fort Washington, Pa., plant, however.
Meanwhile, drugstores have given over shelf space to private-label brands and competitors, which have been working hard to fill the J&J void. Novartis ($NVS), for one, said it would give away 250,000 bottles of its Triaminic Fever Reducer Pain Reliever, which contains the same active ingredient as Tylenol, acetaminophen. The Triaminic brand and Advil both picked up plenty of business while children's Tylenol was off the market, analysts said.
Now, some drugstores say they're going to wait and see how customers respond to the return of children's Tylenol. Loyalty to the pain reliever has dropped some 7 percent, a marketing survey showed, and at least some parents are skeptical about returning to the brand, now that they've switched to cheaper generics. But other studies have shown that customers are giving J&J the benefit of the doubt.