McNeil Hid Tylenol Liver Damage Risks: ProPublica Report

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Decades of inaction by McNeil HealthCare may have led to the deaths of hundreds of Tylenol users, according to a new report published by the independent non-profit journalism group ProPublica. According to the report, McNeil (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) has worked since the mid-1970s to avoid having to affix liver damage warnings to its highly-profitable Tylenol products. Experts estimate that approximately 150 Americans die annually due to overdoses on acetaminophen, the active ingredient contained in Tylenol.

What’s the problem?

September 27, 2013 – The new report, which was published by ProPublica and This American Life, outlines how the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) stalled on the issue of Tylenol liver damage for decades, and how McNeil repeatedly avoided having to affix warning labels to the packaging of its highly profitable pain reliever.

The report also echos many of the allegations raised in recent Tylenol Liver Damage Lawsuits, which allege that McNeil knew – or should have known – about its product’s ability to cause liver injuries with just a slight overdose, but that it failed to warn the public and medical communities about this risk.

Acetaminophen, the active ingredient contained in Tylenol and hundreds of other widely-used drugs, has been a leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States for years. These problems have prompted the FDA to come up with plans to raise awareness about the risk of liver damage from acetaminophen, and to make Tylenol and other drugs that contain the ingredient safer.

However, the ProPublica report reveals that the FDA has known about acetaminophen’s ability to cause severe liver damage since at least 1977, when an independent panel of experts determined that there needs to be a ‘severe liver damage’ warning label on Tylenol. However, amid opposition from McNeil, the verbiage was not added to the drug’s labeling for more than 30 years.

Tylenol Liver Injury Lawsuits

McNeil currently faces a growing number of lawsuits filed in courthouses around the country on behalf of people who have developed severe liver damage after taking Tylenol products. Earlier this year, such lawsuits filed on the federal level were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for pretrial handling before a single judge. There are currently at least 80 Tylenol lawsuits pending in the MDL, but experts estimate that hundreds or even thousands of additional complaints will be added before the litigation process is complete.

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