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The Tylenol Crisis: One Recall Is a Misfortune. Five Looks Like Carelessness

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)'s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit seems determined to ruin its Tylenol franchise: The recall of children's medicines announced late last week by the FDA is actually the fifth Tylenol recall for one reason or another since 2009. To misquote Oscar Wilde, one Tylenol recall may be regarded as a misfortune. But five seems like carelessness.

The inability of J&J to get its act together on this flagship consumer brand is baffling: J&J's quick response to the 1982 cyanide sabotage of the Tylenol supply remains a case study of good corporate crisis response. Now Tylenol is looking like a case study in how to trash a brand through indolence and lack of attention to detail.

Here's the timeline of J&J's recent failings on Tylenol:

The situation is a drug marketer's worst nightmare: The media is now suggesting alternatives to Tylenol and lauding the safe reputation of generics by comparison. J&J CEO William Weldon needs to step in and shake up management at McNeil -- even if it's just so he can be seen to be doing something other than getting his dirty drugs off our storeshelves.