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Procter & Gamble Rely Tampons Case Study

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The purpose of this research paper is that to present the difficulties Procter & Gamble faced in the early 1980ÐŽ¦s due to a correlation between the companyÐŽ¦s Rely tampon and the disease Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Also, how the company handled the findings before and after new laws were passed by Congress giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate medical devices, which included tampons. Thereafter, I will analyze the ethical issues relevant to this case within a SWOT analysis.


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is about how companies manage their business processes to produce a positive impact on society. Companies introduce new products in markets, usually after testing concludes that the product is safe for use or consumption. It is nearly impossible for a company to truly know all of the potential risks a brand new product may have, even after thorough testing. However, once a company receives reports that its product may be causing harm to consumers, it is their responsibility to conduct more research and tests to rule-out any possible truth in the reports. This is what a socially responsible company would do, one who is preoccupied not only with their bottom-line, but one that is also worried about its customers.

After Procter & Gamble introduced its Rely tampon in the market in the 1970ÐŽ¦s, the company began receiving reports as early as 1975 that the product was causing a rare but possibly deadly disease, TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome). This product was not made with cotton as the competitorsÐŽ¦ tampons. The Rely tampon was made with synthetics, like carboxymethylcellulose and polyester in order to be the first extended wear and most absorbent tampon in the market.

I will first discuss these reports and what the companyÐŽ¦s initial response was. Next, I will elaborate on the case and the companyÐŽ¦s course of action following the passing of new laws and further research conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the illnesses and the women affected by these decisions. Following, I will conduct a SWOT Analysis of the company in which I will include relevant ethic theories pertaining to the case. Finally, I will conclude and provide recommendations based on my findings.

Company History

William Procter, who emigrated from England, and James Gamble, who emigrated from Ireland, met when they married sisters. Procter was a candle maker and Gamble was a soap maker. Their father-in-law insisted that they become business partners and in 1837 Procter & Gamble was born. Throughout Procter & GambleÐŽ¦s history and development, the company has grown to be divided into five business segments: healthcare, beauty care, baby and family care, snacks and beverages and fabric and home care. The companyÐŽ¦s headquarters are located in Cincinnati, Ohio and employs around 110,000 people in nearly 80 countries and markets over 300 products worldwide with a net income of $5.66 billion.

Company Background

Procter & GambleÐŽ¦s major competitors begun marketing tampons as early as the 1930ÐŽ¦s. In 1972 a ban to advertise sanitary products on television was lifted. Seeing this and the preference of women to use tampons, thus becoming a highly competitive market, P&G decides to enter this market in the early 1970ÐŽ¦s. Enters the Rely tampon. By 1980, this tampon had acquired 20% of the market. In January 1980, twelve (12) cases of TSS were reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). TSS begins suddenly, its symptoms are vomiting, high fever, rapid drop in blood pressure, diarrhea, headache, sore throat and muscle aches. After 24 hours a rash appears which is sunburn like. On days 3 and 4 of the disease, broken blood vessels appear in the skin, along with confusion, fatigue and weakness and weak and rapid pulse. The disease can cause kidney dysfunction, liver failure, can be deadly and needs immediate treatment (Klein, 2004). TSS was first identified in medical literature in 1978 and 90% of the cases were found in women who used tampons.

The Rely brand tampon was an extended wear tampon so absorbent it could hold twenty (20) times its weight in liquid, allowing the wearer to use one tampon continuously for the entire duration of her menstrual period. The Rely tampon was made of a mixture of carboxymethylcellulose (a wood pulp derivative) and polyurethane (a plastic). PolyurethaneÐŽ¦s uses are varied but it may be used to make sofa stuffing and insulation. However, in tests it shows that it is a cancer-causing agent or carcinogen and a tumor producer.

First TSS Reports

A small bi-weekly newspaper from New York, The Rochester Patriot Newspaper, appears to be the first to establish the issues with the Rely tampon in 1975 and 1976. The articles explain that Rochester and Fort Wayne, Indiana were the two cities chosen by Procter & Gamble as test markets for the new kind of tampon and the materials used to make this extended wear tampon.

After the second article that The Rochester Patriot published in 1976, P&G said it would remove the polyurethane from the tampon not because it was unsafe, rather due to construction problems. It seemed that the tampon would break apart during use, cause vaginal itching, burning and pain when removing the tampon. A source with inside company information said that P&G was changing the tampon due to the negative publicity the tampon was receiving in Rochester. However, seven months later, studies still found this agent in the tampons (Rochester Patriot, 1975-76).

The End of the Rely Tampon

Procter & Gamble began distributing the tampon in test markets in 1975 and introduced the product to the general consumer in 1979 by mailing 60 million free samples to women nationwide. At the onset of TSS, the disease was not linked to tampon use. In January, 1980, 12 cases of TSS were reported to the CDC. These cases were similar in that the patients were all women who had used tampons. The CDC continued receiving additional reports that associated the disease with tampon usage. In May of that same year, the CDC notified tampon manufacturers of the potential risks posed by their products. In September, 1980 the CDC concluded another study, this studyÐŽ¦s findings were that 71% of the women included in the study ad used P&GÐŽ¦s Rely tampon. P&G defended its product. However, the FDA gave P&G one week to analyze the CDCÐŽ¦s findings and respond to



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