The Johnson & Johnson Tylenol Controversies

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : BECG015 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 300;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 300 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Ethics in Business
Case Length : 13 Pages
Period : 1975 - 2001
Pub. Date : 2002
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Johnson & Johnson
Industry : Drugs and Pharmaceuticals
Countries : USA


The case gives an overview of the problems faced by J&J because of Tylenol. Tylenol was the first acetaminophen-based analgesic to be sold as an OTC drug. The product was promoted aggressively and had become a leader within a few years. In 1982, it was found that Tylenol capsules were laced with Cyanide. This resulted in the death of many people. However, with the company's proactive and effective public relations program, Tylenol regained its market share within six months. J&J again faced problems when people died due to overdoses of Tylenol. This was mainly because the public as well as the medical practitioners were not well informed about the product's side-effects.

Though the company received bad publicity and had to spend millions of dollars in legal settlements, J&J was reluctant to have more explicit warnings on Tylenol's labels. This was in contrast to the company's response in the previous product tampering crises. However, in 1997, following the the FDA labeling rules, J&J made many changes in Tylenol's labels.


Ethical issues involved in the overdose controversy and discuss the right approach to resolving the crisis in right, proper and just way


  Page No.
Tylenol Deaths 1
Background Note 2
The Fall and Rise of Tylenol 3
The Tylenol Overdose Controversy 5
Making the Public Aware of Risks 6
Exhibits 8


J&J, Tylenol, acetaminophen-based analgesic, OTC drug,leader,1982, Cyanide, six months, Tylenol, medical practitioners, side-effects, bad publicity, millions, dollars, legal settlements,1997, FDA labeling rules

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