Editors' (re)View: Phenylephrine doesn't work; J&J changes the script

Sept. 15, 2023
Pharma Manufacturing editors Karen Langhauser and Andrea Corona comment on the notable happenings in the pharma industry from the week of September 11.

Editor’s note: Welcome to Editors' (re)View, our editors’ takes on things going on in the pharma world that deserve some extra consideration.

Your decongestant doesn't work 

Earlier this week, the FDA announced that the most popular oral nasal decongestant ingredient, phenylephrine, is ineffective. 

Found in the most common medicines such as cold and sinus formulations for Pfizer's Benadryl, Procter & Gamble's Vicks, Reckitt's Mucinex and J&J's Tylenol and Sudafed, phenylephrine has been available over the counter since 1976. 

On Tuesday’s meeting, the Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee voted unanimously 16-0 against its effectiveness, citing that studies have shown that the drug is broken down in the stomach before it can have a decongestant therapeutic effect. (How exactly did five decades go by before anyone took action about the fact that phenylephrine doesn't work?)

The agency noted that nasal phenylephrine is effective to treat congestion, so ineffectiveness only pertains to its oral formulation. Still, the FDA could decide to reclassify phenylephrine from Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective (GRASE), in which case drugmakers would either have to submit additional data or reformulate their drugs. 

After the announcement, consumer action followed quickly, with Johnson & Johnson, Proxter and Gamble and Walgreens all being accused of deceiving customers in class action lawsuits filed in a Florida federal court.

— Andrea Corona

J&J changes the script

I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that J&J has unveiled a brand update that includes replacing its 136-year old logo.

The new logo will be a brighter red and feature a more modern, non-cursive font. While it’s true that cursive handwriting seems to be a dying art with new generations, J&J justified it this way: “Each letter is drawn in one pen stroke, creating a contrast that delivers both a sense of unexpectedness and humanity.” (Well, that explains it…)

J&J has a rich history (and as a New Jerseyian, I've been enveloped by it perhaps more than others). History is so important to the drugmaker that it actual employs a chief historian to keep track of it all. The company was founded in 1886 to make surgery sterile and survivable, and the logo was debuted a year later. It was based off the signature of the company’s co-founder, who later served as its CEO, Robert Wood Johnson.

At 136-years old, the iconic signature was one of the oldest existing brand logos in the world. (This blog from 2020 ranked it 12th.)

I’m certainly not a marketing guru and I trust that J&J hired the best to make this decision. Insiders report that internally, employees are happy to see the change. (Maybe they just want some new swag.)

J&J has been historically innovative, introducing things like first aid kits, dental floss, band-aids, tamper-resistant packaging and disposable contact lenses to the world. I suppose I’m a sucker for nostalgia, but the old logo read just fine to me.

—Karen Langhauser

About the Author

Andrea Corona | Senior Editor

Andrea Corona serves as the Senior Editor of Pharma Manufacturing — a leading source of news and insights for pharma professionals — and is responsible for creation of editorial content, moderating webinars, and co-hosting the "Off script" podcast. Her editorial journey started as an as associate editor at Biocompare, an online platform providing product information, industry news, articles, and other resources to support scientists in their work. Before Biocompare, she was a digital producer at Science Friday, focusing on adapting radio segments for the web and social media management. Andrea earned her bachelor's degree in journalism and biology from the State University of New York, at Purchase College. 
About the Author

Karen P. Langhauser | Chief Content Director, Pharma Manufacturing

Karen currently serves as Pharma Manufacturing's chief content director.

Now having dedicated her entire career to b2b journalism, Karen got her start writing for Food Manufacturing magazine. She made the decision to trade food for drugs in 2013, when she joined Putman Media as the digital content manager for Pharma Manufacturing, later taking the helm on the brand in 2016.

As an award-winning journalist with 20+ years experience writing in the manufacturing space, Karen passionately believes that b2b content does not have to suck. As the content director, her ongoing mission has been to keep Pharma Manufacturing's editorial look, tone and content fresh and accessible.

Karen graduated with honors from Bucknell University, where she majored in English and played Division 1 softball for the Bison. Happily living in NJ's famed Asbury Park, Karen is a retired Garden State Rollergirl, known to the roller derby community as the 'Predator-in-Chief.'