Published Date: 05/27/19
When our babies are sick, all we want to do is help them feel better. We reach for the medicine to help bring their fever down. But why are we paying three times more for Infant Tylenol than for Children’s Tylenol when it’s the exact same thing?
As it turns out, both versions contain the same amount of the active ingredient acetaminophen - 160 milligrams per five milliliters of liquid, as NPR first reported. It can’t be the little syringe that comes with the Infants’ version, can it? That’s what Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Tylenol claim, but we’re not buying it.
Prior to 2011, Children’s Tylenol and Infants’ Tylenol contained different amounts of acetaminophen. In fact, the infant version contained three times as much as the children’s version, so it made sense that the cost was higher. With their tiny tummies, it was believed that you shouldn’t give babies large amounts of liquid, so the makers provided a version where you could give the same dose in a lower volume.
Inma Hernandez of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy said, “It was three times more concentrated. The price per milliliter was five times higher.”
Given that, it made sense that Infants’ Tylenol was priced higher.
However, sleep-deprived parents were making dosing mistakes, causing some babies to get sick and even overdose and die. And while regarded as safe, for acetaminophen, the difference between the dose that helps and the dose that can cause grave danger is one of the smallest for any over-the-counter drug.
At the urging of the Food & Drug Administration in 2011, Johnson & Johnson announced that moving forward, both Infants’ and Children’s Tylenol would contain the same amount of acetaminophen. However, in 2019, the price is still the same for both drugs.
A quick search online shows us that at Target, Infants’ Tylenol is priced at $5.99 for one ounce. Children’s Tylenol is also priced at $5.99, but for four ounces. Same drug, same store, but four times the cost for the bottle labeled Infants’.
NPR reached out to Johnson & Johnson and Kim Montagnino provided a statement that said that the Infants’ bottle is sturdier and comes with the syringe instead of the plastic dosing cup, which explains the price differential.
Hernandez says, “The cup versus the syringe doesn't really explain the price difference in my opinion. ”They're really cheap because they're just plastic. When we think of what's expensive in a drug, it's actually the active ingredient, and the preparation of that active ingredient in the formulation, not the plastic cup or the syringe."
Regardless of the cup or syringe, trying to figure out dosing from the bottle can be challenging. You should always speak with your doctor if you’re unsure of the dose, which goes by weight, not by age. You can also find information online, but make sure it’s a reputable source, like this chart from St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
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