As of 2017, the "Tylenol" brand was used in Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Lebanon, Myanmar, Oman, the Philippines, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.
The active ingredient in Tylenol is paracetamol, a widely used over-the-counter analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer). Formulations with additional active ingredients intended to target specific applications are sold under the Tylenol brand. These can include codeine as co-codamol, dextromethorphan, methocarbamol, guaifenesin, pseudoephedrine, caffeine, diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine and phenylephrine.
The brand was introduced in 1955 by McNeil Laboratories, a family owned pharmaceutical manufacturer. Two brothers took over the company from their father that year, and that year one of them learned about paracetamol, which was not on the US market at that time. To avoid competing with aspirin, they marketed it as a product to reduce fever in children, packaging it like a red fire truck with the slogan, "for little hotheads". The brand name Tylenol and the United States Adopted Name acetaminophen were generated by McNeil from the chemical name of the drug. Johnson & Johnson bought McNeil in 1959, and one year later the drug was made available over the counter.
On September 29, 1982, a "Tylenol scare" began when the first of seven individuals died in the Chicago metropolitan area after ingesting Extra Strength Tylenol that had been deliberately contaminated with cyanide. Within a week, the company pulled 31 million bottles of tablets back from retailers, making it one of the first major product recalls in American history.
Before the poisonings, Tylenol brands held around 35% of the US market for acetaminophen and in the immediate aftermath, fell to 8%. Within a year sales had rebounded to the prior levels. J&J's handling of the crisis has been widely cited as an example of optimal crisis management.
On January 15, 2010, Johnson & Johnson announced a voluntary recall of several hundred batches of popular medicines, including Benadryl, Motrin, Rolaids, Simply Sleep, St. Joseph Aspirin and Tylenol. The recall was due to complaints of a musty smell suspected to be due to contamination of the packaging with the chemical 2,4,6-tribromoanisole. The full health effects of 2,4,6-tribromoanisole are not known but no serious events have been documented in medical literature. The recall came 20 months after McNeil first began receiving and investigating consumer complaints about moldy-smelling bottles of Tylenol Arthritis Relief caplets, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The recall included 53 million bottles of over-the-counter products including Tylenol, Motrin and Rolaids, Benadryl and St. Joseph's Aspirin, involving lots in the Americas, the United Arab Emirates and Fiji.
On May 5, 2010, the FDA confirmed that the bacterium found at the Johnson & Johnson plant that made the recalled Children's Tylenol was Burkholderia cepacia, a bacterium often resistant to common antibiotics. The bacteria were found on the outside of certain product-containing drums, but not in the finished product. The CDC has stated that Burkholderia cepacia is not likely to cause health problems for those with healthy immune systems, but those with weaker ones and those with chronic lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, could be more susceptible to infection.
Tylenol has many different advertisement approaches. One of these advertisement campaigns focuses on "getting you back to normal", whereas the other commercials focus on Tylenol's current slogan, "Feel better, Tylenol". In the "Feel better, Tylenol" commercials, Tylenol places emphasis on the importance of sleep; various people are seen sleeping in this commercial while a voiceover describes how sleep can help repair and heal the human body during times of aches and pains. In the "getting you back to normal" commercial, Tylenol places more emphasis on helping its consumers get back to their daily routines; many different people are shown first experiencing headaches and other sorts of body pain, where a voiceover then states that Tylenol Rapid Release can help rid aches and pains; the various people are then shown enjoying their everyday lives, and are seen as "back to normal".