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J&J's pain reliever recalls hurting sales, image

TRENTON, N.J. - Sales of Johnson & Johnson pain relievers are collapsing as a string of recalls appears to have made consumers wary of once-sterling brands such as Tylenol and Motrin.

An eighth recall, announced yesterday, could worsen consumer reaction. That wariness and the high number of recalled products look to be costing J&J tens of millions of dollars a month.

Yesterday's recall by J&J's McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit covers 21 lots of products, including Children's Tylenol. They were recalled because of a musty or moldy smell, extending a large January recall tied to a chemical on shipping pallets.

The company said the new lots were added to the recall "as a precautionary measure" after an internal review found some packaging materials used in the lots had been shipped and stored on the same type of wood pallets tied to the earlier recall lots.

An April 30 recall of more than 130 million bottles of children's and infants' liquid medicines involved products J&J said "may not meet required quality standards," may contain tiny metal particles or may have too much active ingredient.

Data from SymphonyIRI Group show sales of J&J's pain reliever pills fell 56 percent in the four weeks ending June 13, compared with a year earlier.

The figures show that U.S. sales of pain-relieving tablets, gelcaps and other types of pills, including multiple strengths of Tylenol and Motrin, plunged to $20.9 million in that four-week period. Sales of liquid pain relievers fell 96 percent, to just $630,000. Those figures do not include sales at Walmart, gas stations and club stores.

That amounts to tens of millions of dollars in revenue lost in just one month - and a big hit to the reputation of the maker of iconic products such as baby shampoo and Band-Aids.

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