Charting the run on Tylenol during the COVID-19 pandemic

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
April 24, 2020, 4:44 PM GMT+0

Tylenol has been flying off shelves as the COVID-19 pandemic rages. The acetaminophen-based pain reliever and fever reducer is widely seen as a good over-the-counter drug to combat some of the coronavirus’s symptoms.

Just how high is demand for the over-the-counter pain killer right now?

According to YouGov BrandIndex data, roughly one in five US adults (19.1%) say they’re likely to buy Tylenol, marking the brand’s highest Purchase Intent score in at least two years.

Tylenol’s huge coronavirus-era hike further builds on its sector leadership; average Purchase Intent score — which is based on answers to the question “From which of these brands would you be most likely to buy?” — among painkillers sits at around five percent, while drugs with acetaminophen have remained steady between three and four percent.

As for those who already have Tylenol in their medicine cabinet, 20.1 percent of Americans have purchased Tylenol in the last 30 days.

YouGov tracks how various business sectors have been performing throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and sales of over-the-counter medications in general have been steady. The number of Americans in the market for over-the-counter medication has remained stable in the last three months, compared to the same time period last year.

Health authorities around the world have recommended the use of fever-lowering over-the-counter medicines to cope with COVID-19 symptoms. Over the counter drugs, like Tylenol, do not shorten the length of the illness, but can offer fever relief.

In the early days of the pandemic in March, Johnson & Johnson, Tylenol’s parent company, said it was ramping up production to meet demand. “Just when we thought we had seen the highest demand we had ever seen for Tylenol, this week the demand has grown even more,” Kathleen Widmer, group chairman for North America of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, told Reuters at the time.

There is no national shortage of acetaminophen, according to the Federal Drug Administration’s drug-shortage database, however there have been some reports of the drug being difficult to find in some parts of the country, related to supply chain strain, rather than an outright shortage.

According to a YouGov survey conducted in early April, 10 percent of Americans said they had purchased over-the-counter medication in bulk.


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