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How to get a refund for recalled Tylenol

The company was slow to set up a procedure, but it now has a form on its website. Retailers are also issuing refunds.

By Teresa Mears May 3, 2010 1:36PM

When a unit of Johnson & Johnson recalled its liquid children’s cold medicines this weekend, it told parents to throw all the old medication away.


What the company did NOT tell parents was how to get a refund for the over-the-counter products, which cost $5 per bottle and up.


It merely told parents with questions to call the toll-free number of McNeil Consumer HealthCare.


Ron Lieber at The New York Times Bucks blog tried that Saturday. First, he got a three-minute recording about the recall and then the line went dead. A few hours later, he couldn’t get through at all. He wrote:

It had to have occurred to someone at McNeil that people were going to want to know how to get their money back. But rather than come right out and say on the first version of its website that it didn’t have a system set up quite yet to handle refunds, it simply said nothing. As a result, many parents probably threw the medicine in the trash, only to have to go digging through the banana peels and coffee grinds later when they discovered they needed information from the product labels in order to apply for refunds or coupons for replacement products.

The company has now put a form online you can use to request refunds or coupons for replacement products. If you have already thrown the products away and don’t have lot numbers, a company spokesperson contacted by the Times said refund requests would be handled on a case-by-case basis, so it’s worth calling. The number is (888) 222-6036.

Some customers have gotten refunds by returning the products to the stores where they were purchased. This is definitely the best first step with unopened bottles, and some stores are giving refunds for opened bottles, too.


“E.C.E.” of Virginia noted in a comment at the Bucks blog: “We had several bottles of the recalled products; some of the bottles were open, and some were not. I returned them to the grocery store I had purchased them at and was given a cash refund; no receipt needed.”

The recalled products included liquid infants’ and children’s Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl. You can find a complete list of all the recalled products here, and the Food and Drug Administration has additional information.


According to the company and the FDA, the products are not believed to be dangerous and have not been blamed for deaths or illnesses. However, the company said the drugs, which are manufactured in the United States, had “manufacturing deficiencies” that could affect quality, purity or potency. Consumers were told to stop using the products immediately.


The company said some of the products may contain a higher concentration of the active ingredient, inactive ingredients that “may not meet internal testing requirements” or “tiny particles.”


The recall has raised questions for some consumers about whether name-brand products are any better than generic products, Natasha Singer wrote in The New York Times.


This is at least the fifth recall of McNeil products in the last year, including a previous recall of children’s products, the Times reported. Unlike in 1982, when Johnson & Johnson was praised for its quick and straightforward response to the deaths of customers from cyanide in Tylenol capsules that were tampered with after they left the company, Johnson & Johnson has been criticized for its handling of the most recent recalls.


“It’s very disturbing because you go to the store and buy the name brands thinking you are getting quality goods and then you find this out and you don’t know who to trust now,” Jennifer Perrotta of Massapequa, N.Y., told the Times. “You kind of lose confidence in the brand names you have been using for years.”


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