Seeking on rival Johnson & Johnson’s woes with a giveaway of its new Triaminic OTC children’s acetaminophen, Novartis said it would distribute 250,000 bottles of free Triaminic Fever Reducer Pain Reliever, which will compete with children’s Tylenol, between August 2nd and August 8th as part of the launch of the line extension. That’s $1.5 million worth, said Novartis.

In addition, the company is reaching out to pediatricians, pharmacists and parenting websites “to make them aware that there’s a fever reducer pain reliever product now available from a trusted brand,” said Novartis Consumer Health director of communications Julie Maslow, and has deployed 100 reps to provide samples to pediatricians. There are no plans for traditional TV or print advertising, she said.

In April, J&J’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare kicked off a snowballing recall of its children’s and infants’ Tylenol and other OTC brands due to manufacturing problems.

The kick-’em-while-they’re-down tactic is a time-honored one in pharma marketing. In July, when safety worries hit GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia, Takeda launched an opportunistic consumer advertising effort on behalf of its Actos. Similarly, in 2008, when Merck/Schering-Plough’s Vytorin was in the headlines over efficacy doubts, AstraZeneca piled on with ads trumpeting Crestor’s virtues.

J&J recalled a host of OTC pain, cold and allergy products for infants in children at the end of April after an FDA inspection uncovered manufacturing problems involving the drugs, which included the Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and Zyrtec brands, and the recall was subsequently expanded.