Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tylenol's marketing practices

I've had a nasty cold that doesn't seem to want to go away, so despite not being a big fan of symptomatic relief meds, I went to the pharmacy just now to get some.

Among several Tylenol products on the shelf, I took a closer look at two: one said "Cold Multi-Symptom" and the other said "Cold Head Congestion" (or something close to that). The packages looked different; they had a different trade dress, to use what I believe is the correct legal jargon. Yet a glance at the active ingredients of the two packages revealed them to be exactly the same. This annoyed me sufficiently that I took the time to mention it to a pharmacist; I knew he couldn't do anything but I wanted someone to know about it. (I'm sure, incidentally, that my mood was not improved by the truly ghastly Christmas music, or so-called music, that was blasting through the strip mall. These places are already physically ugly; why do they have to make them aurally ugly as well?)

Anyway, back to the Tylenol. Is it illegal to market identical products under different names and with different packaging? Presumably not, since McNeil, the maker of Tylenol, no doubt has expensive lawyers whom it pays to tell it what it can and cannot do in these respects. But I'll say this: If it's not illegal, it damn well should be.

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