Procter & Gamble submitted a patent application on 14 March 1983 for its new line of over-the-counter micro-granulated aspirin capsules, to be sold under the name Encaprin, chosen for its phonetic similarity to the word aspirin. The product was first released in January 1984 to a lead market in Tuscon, Arizona, and saw its national release in early May. A national television advertising campaign began on July 15, 1984, where it was marketed as a fast acting analgesic, particularly for mild arthritis relief, while being easier on the stomach than traditional aspirin tablets, due to its distributed aspirin micro-granules.
The brand saw problems early on when a trademark infringement suit was filed by SmithKline Beckman, the makers of Ecotrin. The ruling sided with Procter & Gamble, and they were allowed to keep the Encaprin name. Success for Encaprin was short lived, however, as the product faced intense competition from Tylenol, other aspirin products, and ibuprofen brands Advil and Nuprin, which were approved for over-the counter sale in May 1984, the same month Encaptrin saw its national release.
Encaprin was soon embroiled in the product tampering scares following the 1982 Chicago Tylenol murders. On 27 March 1986, an anonymous caller phoned Procter & Gamble claiming he had placed cyanide in capsules of maximum strength Encaprin in Walgreens pharmacies in Chicago and Detroit, leading Walgreens, Kroger supermarkets and SupeRx drug stores to remove the product from all stores nationally. The manufacturer issued a recall and advisory cautions were announced, although many initially suspected the call was a hoax, particularly because there were no Walgreens locations in Detroit at the time. On 5 April 1986, Procter & Gamble announced that no evidence of tampering had been found, and Encaprin was returned to the shelves. Despite the fact that the scare was revealed to be a hoax, Encaprin never recovered its sales and was quietly retired in August 1986.
The Encaprin hoax influenced the 1989 FDA federal guidelines for the manufacture of tamper-proof products, which called for a minimum of two layers of tamper-proof packaging for two-piece capsule products, and the use of tamper-proof capsule sealing technologies.
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- "P&G Says Encaprin Not Poisoned". AP News Archive. Cincinnati. Associated Press. April 5, 1986.
- "Two chain stores halt sales of Encaprin after a threat". The New York Times. Cincinnati. Associated Press. March 28, 1986.
- Swasy, Alecia (1994). Soap Opera: The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble. Simon & Schuster. p. 114. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
- "CPG Sec. 450.500 Tamper-Resistant Packaging Requirements". Retrieved 30 September 2016.