According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, acetaminophen overdoses are responsible for 55,000 to 80,000 emergency room treatments and more than 500 deaths in this country every year. Acetaminophen is found in more than 600 over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and Nyquil and prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Percocet. One out of every four Americans use an acetaminophen product weekly. Acetaminophen has been linked to liver damage and liver failure. Tylenol, manufactured by McNeil Consumer Healthcare and its parent company Johnson & Johnson, is the leading acetaminophen product on the U.S. market.
The earliest warning of the risk of liver damage associated with use of acetaminophen was issued in 1994. That warning stated that Tylenol should not be combined with alcohol due to the risk of liver damage. The warning came about as a result of a lawsuit filed by Antonio Benedi – President George H. W. Bush’s former aide. Mr. Benedi fell into a coma and required an emergency liver transplant after he took Tylenol with wine at dinner. Benedi was awarded $8.8 million after a jury determined that the manufacturer had not warned of the risk. In 1998, the FDA issued the alcohol warning for all acetaminophen products.
Other lawsuits have since been filed alleging that acetaminophen causes liver damage.
As early as 1977, some FDA advisors were urging liver damage warnings on acetaminophen labels. Health care experts first voiced concern over acetaminophen overdoses in the 1990s. When excessive amounts of acetaminophen are ingested, the liver is unable to process the drug. A toxic by-product is produced which kills liver cells. When most of the cells are no longer functioning, liver failure is the result. When liver failure occurs, the patient may have no more than 24 to 48 hours to live absent a liver transplant.
About half of the annual acetaminophen deaths are believed to be accidental. Unintentional overdoses can easily occur when an individual takes multiple products for pain or cold and sinus conditions. In addition, experts believe that the mere fact that acetaminophen is readily available in large quantities is dangerous.
Dr. William Lee of the UT Southwestern Medical Center has studied acetaminophen toxicity for forty years. He said “The argument goes that if you take acetaminophen correctly you will virtually never get into trouble. But it’s the very fact that it’s easily accessible over-the-counter in bottles of 300 pills or more that puts people in harm’s way.”
If you or a loved one has suffered liver damage as a result of acetaminophen, contact the Ohio pharmaceutical attorneys at Clark, Perdue & List. Clark, Perdue & List has successfully represented hundreds of individuals who have suffered injury as a result of dangerous drugs and defective medical devices.