Driving to work yesterday, I listened to a story on National Public Radio about the effect of Johnson & Johnson’s massive recalls on consumer choices. The news wires and blogosphere have been hyping up a major shift in consumer purchasing in the US from over-the-counter brand-name drugs to generic drugs ever since J&J had to remove from the market millions of bottles of its most popular allergy and fever-reducing medications, including Tylenol, Motrin, and Benadryl.
During the radio show, reporter Andrea Gardner conveyed the following, “My baby Olivia is running a fever. Usually I’d give her Infant Tylenol. But it was recalled back in April. So now, generic acetaminophen is my only choice. I don’t usually give my daughter generic drugs. I buy it for myself, but when it comes to my baby I go with the brand.”
The choice to avoid purchasing over-the-counter generic drugs out of fear that their quality may be less than that of a brand-name drug is quite common among parents, explained consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow during the program: “Parents are just 100% dialed-in to caring for their kids, and especially when we are dealing with health products, if there is any risk at all that you are jeopardizing that—that is going to drum up a boatload of guilt….”
But, adds Gardner, “after months of having only generics to choose from, parents have realized there is no boogieman in the bottle.”
And this is where generic-drug companies have a huge opportunity. They can capitalize on American consumers’ new-found willingness to purchase and use generic drugs not only for themselves, but also for their children. By the time J&J cleans up its image and regains consumer trust in its drug products [another recall of a Tylenol product was issued this week, again for a musty smell], Americans may have decided that the generic drugs they’ve been using as an alternative are just fine and decide that they don’t need to go back to (and pay more for) brand-name products.