Tylenol may Lead to Fatal Liver Failure

Dangerous drug lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remind the public of the very real risks of taking over the counter drugs, such as Tylenol, that contain acetaminophen. This ingredient can cause life-threatening liver failures, and about half of overdoses are accidental.

Many medications label acetaminophen as “APAP,” which misleads many consumers who may not recognize the abbreviation and cause them to accidentally overdose. Nearly a decade ago, one of these consumers, Anthony Benedi, started taking Tylenol Extra Strength to treat symptoms from the flu.

After taking the medication for several days, always adhering to recommended doses, Benedi fell into a coma and was hospitalized. His liver had failed, and doctors told his family he would require a full liver transplant, which he received in February 1993.

Benedi filed a lawsuit against Tylenol manufacturer McNeil Consumer Products, which is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. During the lawsuit, the company argued that Benedi regularly drank wine with dinner, and that alcohol consumption can make the liver more sensitive to Tylenol, rendering it more prone to damage. Benedi argued that, while this is true, Johnson & Johnson failed to warn the public about this fact. Benedi wound up winning $8.8 million because Tylenol Extra Strength did not include adequate warnings on its labels. An appeals court upheld this verdict two years later.

Surprisingly, as it turns out, Tylenol is the number one cause of liver failure in the United States – even more than alcohol. More than 40,000 Americans overdosed on Tylenol in 2011, which ultimately resulted in over 16,000 liver failures. At least 600 medications have acetaminophen as an active ingredient, both in prescription and over the counter drugs.

Recent studies found that at least half of Tylenol overdoses are due to the large number of medications that contain acetaminophen. Doctors recommend a maximum dosage of 3000 mg of the ingredient over a 24 hour period, although liver failure can occur at lower dosages.

In 2011, in order to reduce the number of accidental overdoses, the FDA required prescription drug manufacturers to reduce the amount of acetaminophen in drugs to no more than 325 mg per tablet. Alarmingly, this requirement did not apply to over the counter medications, even though pills of Extra Strength Tylenol contain 500 mg of acetaminophen.

Additionally, the FDA required all drugs containing acetaminophen to include a black box waning informing consumers of the risk of liver damage and failure at more than 4000 mg per 24 hours. It also required dosing recommendations to lower from four – six hours to six hours.

Consuming alcohol activates enzymes that turn acetaminophen into a chemical that can cause liver damage, similar to the damage done to the liver through binge drinking. The more the alcohol and/or acetaminophen consumption, the more likely the chemicals are to cause liver failure and, ultimately, death. Unfortunately, several college students have died from this dangerous combination in recent years, when they took Tylenol to either treat or prevent a hangover.

Acetaminophen is the key ingredient in other incredibly common medications, such as Nyquil and TheraFlu, and Americans are constantly and unknowingly putting themselves in grave danger by combining these drugs with alcohol. The average American has no idea what acetaminophen even is, much less that it has deadly side effects, and that it is an active ingredient in hundreds of common medications.

It has been estimated that more than a hundred million people use acetaminophen-containing over the counter pain medications annually in the United States. Most of these consumers are wholly unaware that they could suffer liver damage, failure, and death as a side effect. The risk of liver toxicity also raises markedly the longer you take the medication.

Drug side effect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remind the public that, just because a medication is available for purchase over the counter, does not mean it is completely safe or harmless. Never take acetaminophen for more than ten days at a time, and do not take extra pills, even if you are in extra pain. If you or a loved one suffered liver damage or failure from Tylenol, or any other drug containing acetaminophen, you may be entitled to compensation.