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Tylenol Liver Failure Lawsuits Consolidated into MDL

Counsel Financial

On April 1, 2013, at least 27 lawsuits pending against Johnson & Johnson concerning the over-the-counter medication Tylenol were consolidated into a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania before Judge Lawrence F. Stengel.

Plaintiffs’ claims against Johnson & Johnson include the manufacturer’s failure to adequately warn consumers about the side effects of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, specifically liver toxicity. Plaintiffs allege that taking the manufacturer’s recommended dose has led to liver failure and the need for liver transplants. Plaintiffs argue that the current warnings are misleading and inaccurate.

According to FDA reports, acetaminophen overdose is the reason for over 50,000 emergency room visits, 25,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths per year. It is also reported to be a leading cause of liver failure, with the drug behind anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 liver failures annually. Although the FDA subsequently lowered the allowable acetaminophen levels from 4,000 mg per day to 3,000 mg per day in prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Percocet, the FDA’s action did not affect the allowable levels in over-the-counter drugs, most notably Tylenol.

Defendant, Johnson & Johnson, unsuccessfully opposed centralization of the litigation, claiming that it properly warned consumers of any and all potential side effects, including the risk of liver damage. Defendant argued that the cases will be dependent upon the individual facts and therefore, consolidation was improper. However, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation disagreed, stating that individual facts regarding Plaintiffs’ health situations are often a factor in other MDLs concerning drug liability and did not prevent the consolidation of the claims as a whole.
VERDICT: TBD
COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

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