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Consumers Apparently Not So Sure About Tylenol Anymore

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It used to be that Tylenol (acetaminophen) was the go-to pain reliever for doctors and patients alike. It didn’t carry the risk of excess bleeding like other brands, and could be safely used in kids and seniors.

Since the FDA required reduced dosages of the drug, however—because of the risk of liver damage—consumers have strayed. According to a 2014 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index produced by Brand Keys, a New-York based research firm, Tylenol rated last of the six major pain relievers when it came to how loyal customers were to the product.

Warning of Acetaminophen Overdose

The FDA warned healthcare providers and patients in January 2014 that dosages of Tylenol should be limited to no more than 325 mg. An acetaminophen overdose, they noted, increased risk of liver failure, liver transplant, and death.

Getting an overdose is easier than one might think. Over-the-counter drug manufacturers added acetaminophen into a number of cold and flu products—and some patients were apparently unaware of the risks. If one took Tylenol for pain and a cold medication with acetaminophen for stuffed sinuses, for example, one could be in risky territory without even knowing it.

Some patients who suffered significant injuries went on to file personal injury lawsuits against manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (J&J). On April 1, 2013, all federal cases were consolidated into one court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for more efficient pre-trial proceedings.

Awareness Campaigns are Working

The FDA and other health organizations have worked hard over the last few years to raise awareness of the risk of too much acetaminophen. The Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition (AAC) put out a report this year (2014) stating that the drug is found in more than 600 different prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and is used by 50 million Americans each week.

“More than 95% of the time,” they stated, “it is taken according to directions on the medicine label.” Of those who exceed the maximum dose, most do so by “taking the next dose too soon, using multiple products containing acetaminophen, or taking too much at one time.”

Recalls Had an Impact

In addition to the concern about liver damage, Tylenol has also suffered because of numerous recalls. to Reuters, starting in 2009, problems like bacterial contamination, a musty or mildew-like odor associated with digestive side effects, manufacturing deficiencies, and flaws in bottle design all led to recalls of hundreds of thousands of bottles.

J&J has since lowered the maximum dose from 4,000 mg per day to 3,000 in an effort to help prevent liver problems, but meanwhile, the damage has been done.

Tylenol Lawsuits

Over 100 Tylenol lawsuits are pending in federal and state courts. The first bellwether trials are expected to begin in early 2016.