Hundreds of plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against drug maker Johnson & Johnson (J&J) alleging that use of over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen product Tylenol can cause liver failure, even when taken as directed.
Lawsuits allege that Johnson & Johnson knew about the risk of acute liver failure due to toxicity and/or overdose, but failed to warn the public promptly and adequately.
If you or a loved one suffered liver failure after using a Tylenol product, there is still time to join this growing litigation. Don’t wait; you may be entitled to compensation.
Tylenol and Liver Failure
One of the main functions of the liver is to purify and clear waste products, toxins, and drugs. When someone takes Tylenol, the liver metabolizes the drug and breaks it down into other chemicals.
Unfortunately, research suggests that some of the drug will be metabolized into a harmful toxin known as NAPQI. If the patient’s body is producing an adequate amount of glutathione, the liver will quickly break down NAPQI into a non-toxic chemical. But for some patients, an excessive amount of this toxic byproduct may accumulate, resulting in liver failure.
Countless data have demonstrated this link between Tylenol and liver failure. A 2004 study by Hepatology found:
Acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause for calls to Poison Control Centers (>100,000/year) and accounts for more than 56,000 emergency room visits, 2,600 hospitalizations, and an estimated 458 deaths due to acute liver failure each year. Data from the U.S. Acute Liver Failure Study Group registry of more than 700 patients with acute liver failure across the United States implicates acetaminophen poisoning in nearly 50% of all acute liver failure in this country.
In 2006, The New York Times reported, “More than 200 million Americans a year take products like Tylenol with acetaminophen, and overdoses cause up to 450 deaths a year from acute liver failure.”
In 2013, “This American Life” teamed with ProPublica to investigate and illuminate the acetaminophen crisis in America. The story’s introduction states:
One of the country’s most popular over-the-counter painkillers – acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol – also kills the most people, according to data from the federal government. Over 150 Americans die each year on average after accidentally taking too much. And it requires a lot less to endanger you than you may know.
Finally, in January 2016, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) released some disturbing findings from a study of 1,015 American consumers (479 of them with chronic pain) and 251 gastroenterologists. The AGA determined that 43% of individuals with chronic pain intentionally exceeded the recommended daily dosage of OTC pain medications, while 38% were “unaware that combining multiple acetaminophen products increases their risk for complications.”
Patients at Greater Risk
Patients who are malnourished, fasting, or restricting their caloric intake to less than 500 calories per day may be at the greatest risk of acetaminophen-related liver failure, as they may have more difficulty processing the drug than healthy Tylenol users.
Additionally, patients taking prescription drugs containing acetaminophen—in combination with OTC acetaminophen products such as Tylenol—put themselves at risk for an overdose, and potentially acetaminophen-related liver failure.
FDA Warnings About Liver Disease
Many people taking prescription drugs do not even realize that their medications also contain acetaminophen.
To remedy this problem, in 2011 the FDA required that all prescription drugs containing acetaminophen update their labels to contain boxed warnings highlighting the risk of liver injury. The agency also imposed a 325mg limit on the amount of acetaminophen prescription drugs may contain per dose, to minimize the risk of liver damage in patients taking these medications.
But many consider these actions to be too little, too late. The FDA approved acetaminophen in 1955; it became an over-the-counter drug five years later. For over 50 years, then, Tylenol did not have these boxed warnings or the 325mg maximum dosage in prescription medications.
This 50-year failure to warn consumers has spawned hundreds of lawsuits.
Tylenol Lawsuit Allegations and Compensation
Tylenol lawsuits usually allege some combination of the following:
- Tylenol is defective and unreasonably dangerous.
- The risk of Tylenol-induced liver failure was well-documented and well-known to the drug manufacturer for many years.
- Tylenol carried inadequate warnings, labels, and instructions.
- Medical providers were not given adequate training and instruction for the appropriate use of Tylenol.
- The manufacturer over-promoted Tylenol products, their safety, and their efficacy.
- The manufacturer failed to test Tylenol properly.
- Tylenol contains design defects that render it more dangerous than other pain relievers and can cause a significantly increased risk of acute liver failure.
- The manufacturer failed to use due care in designing and manufacturing Tylenol so as to avoid the risk of injury to users.
These lawsuits seek compensation for financial losses, physical harm, and emotional injury, which may include:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral costs, loss of projected earnings, and loss of companionship (in wrongful death cases)
Importantly, filing a lawsuit can also help ensure the manufacturer is held accountable for its actions, and that they enact stricter standards to prevent future tragedies.
Tylenol Lawsuit Verdicts
Roughly 220 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against J&J, alleging that use of over-the-counter Tylenol products can cause serious liver damage, including liver failure, even when taken as directed.
In April 2013, the bulk of these lawsuits were consolidated into a multi-district litigation (MDL) for logistical reasons.
In October 2015, a New Jersey jury ruled against plaintiff Regina Jackson, 55, but only because Ms. Jackson couldn’t prove that she had taken Extra Strength Tylenol. Bloomberg noted, “The verdict gives hope to plaintiffs pursuing about 220 lawsuits against J&J and its McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit in state and federal court in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”
Ms. Jackson’s attorney, Clay Milling, told Bloomberg, “The important health issue that the Food & Drug Administration and the medical community has put on the table about Tylenol was not answered by this jury verdict.”
J&J Owes $127 Million to Two Plaintiffs
In addition to Tylenol, Invega, Risperdal, Propecia, and other products, Johnson & Johnson is also facing hundreds of lawsuits over its Baby Powder’s links to ovarian cancer.
In February 2016, a Missouri jury awarded the family of Jacqueline Fox $72 million in damages after Ms. Fox passed away from ovarian cancer. Ms. Fox had used Johnson’s Baby Powder for feminine hygiene for decades.
In May 2016, a Missouri jury found in favor of Gloria Ristesund, who contracted ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower Powder on her pelvic area for many years. (As a result, Ms. Ristesund had to have a hysterectomy and other surgeries.) The jury awarded Ms. Ristesund $55 million.
In terms of the strength of their case, Tylenol plaintiffs should feel encouraged by J&J’s recent litigation history.
Our attorneys are currently investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of consumers who suffered any of the following injuries after using Tylenol:
- Acute liver failure
- Sudden liver failure
- Hospitalization due to liver failure
- Liver transplant
(We are not investigating claims of mere liver damage, as we believe the manufacturer warned against this risk for some time, thereby invalidating these types of injury claims.)
Morgan & Morgan Will Fight for You
At Morgan & Morgan, our expert legal team helps people injured by pharmaceuticals hold drug companies accountable for their dangerous and defective medications. We have decades of experience handling these cases and know how to get victims the compensation they deserve.
We have helped more than 200,000 clients win $2 billion in settlements and awards—and we only collect a fee if we resolve your case successfully.
If you or a loved one has suffered liver failure from Tylenol, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and other damages. To find out if you may be eligible for compensation, please contact us today.