Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Dozens of Pennsylvania Tylenol liability cases in pre-trial

Drug labels include warnings, like risks associated with mixing the drug with other medications and taking a higher than recommended dose. Acetaminophen, best known under the brand name Tylenol, is a pain relieving drug that has been familiar to Pittsburgh consumers for decades. Tylenol-maker McNeil-PPC Inc. is a defendant in dozens of product liability lawsuits active in Philadelphia.

Tylenol has routinely been marketed as safe, but plaintiffs say McNeil-PPC and other acetaminophen manufacturers have hidden the painkiller's dangers. The legal claims allege consumers remain largely unaware acetaminophen, even in doses slightly higher than recommended, can cause severe liver problems and death. The pain reliever is included in over 600 drugs including many easily-misused, over-the-counter medications.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also has been criticized for dragging its feet on warning the public about acetaminophen's possible toxic effects. It took the FDA 24 years to act on the advice of a 1977 committee advisory that recommended liver damage warning labels and limited dosages per pill.

Seventy-eight thousand accidental acetaminophen overdoses are diagnosed in U.S. emergency rooms every year. The drug is responsible for the greatest number of acute liver failures in the country and has been linked in studies to hundreds of avoidable deaths. The lawsuits contend, with so many prescription and non-prescription medications containing acetaminophen, even doctors are causing accidental overdoses.

Acetaminophen becomes a dangerous product when individuals take more than 4,000 daily milligrams. The dosage doesn't have to be as high to become toxic for individuals with poor appetites or who use alcohol after taking the medication. An FDA deadline for manufacturers to limit acetaminophen to 325-milligram doses passed in January, with compliance among about half of the drug makers.

Plaintiffs can be compensated in civil cases for injuries and deaths from dangerous drugs. The timing of a complaint is important. Deadlines limit how long injured parties have to file products liability cases.

Source: The Inquirer, "Suits against Tylenol maker seek to highlight dangers" Melissa Dribben, Feb. 17, 2014

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