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To most people, Tylenol is one of the most trusted and commonly used pain relievers available. With a brand name stretching back to 1955, Tylenol is sold over the counter and is widely considered safe. Unfortunately, some individuals are at risk of acute liver failure from taking Tylenol—even if they follow the directions on the package. This is far more severe than liver damage, and in some cases it can be fatal.
If you or someone you love experienced liver failure after taking Tylenol, you may be able to recover your medical costs including hospitalization, liver transplant, and long term care. The attorneys of John Foy & Associates believe that patients and doctors were not adequately warned of the risk of liver failure, and we are exploring possible lawsuits. John Foy & Associates is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable medical injury firms in the country. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get a free consultation today.
How is Tylenol used medically?
Tylenol is a brand name of the drug acetaminophen, produced by the company Johnson & Johnson, used as an analgesic (pain reliever) and to reduce fever. It’s sold over the counter as well as blended into prescription drugs such as Percocet and Vicodin and over the counter remedies like some cold medicine. It is very different chemically from other common pain relievers such as Ibuprofen.
Tylenol is often considered safe, but it carries risks, including serious risks that many patients don’t know about. For example, most people are aware that Tylenol can cause liver damage if taken in excessive doses, but they may not realize it can cause complete liver failure even if you take the correct dose.
How does Tylenol cause liver failure?
The liver’s job is to purify the blood of drugs, toxins and waste products. Any drug that enters your body, including Tylenol, will eventually be broken down by the liver, producing byproducts that the body can eliminate. When the liver breaks down Tylenol, however, one of the byproducts produced is an enzyme called NAPQI. NAPQI is highly toxic to the liver.
The reason NAPQI is so dangerous is that it takes away one of the liver’s most important antioxidants, a compound known as glutathione. The liver produces glutathione to protect itself from free radicals, particles that destroy liver cells. But there are circumstances where Tylenol deprives the liver of glutathione, leaving it vulnerable. These circumstances include:
- If too much Tylenol is taken in too short a period of time
- If there is some reason why the body cannot produce enough glutathione
This second circumstance is particularly dangerous, because it means you could suffer catastrophic liver failure even if you take a very small dose of Tylenol.
How common is Tylenol-related liver failure?
It’s tragically common. Acetaminophen is the number one cause of liver failure in the United States. Every year it leads to approximately 458 deaths, 2,600 hospitalizations, and 56,000 emergency room visits.
The outcomes of liver failure are equally alarming. Liver failure means that the body cannot remove toxins from the blood. It can be fatal. A patient who experiences liver failure generally needs a liver transplant to survive long-term, and not enough livers are available.
Who is most likely to be at risk?
It is possible to have poor liver function and not even realize it, putting you at high risk for liver failure from acetaminophen. But several groups of people appear to be at particularly high risk:
- Anyone who is maintaining a low-calorie diet or fasting
- Malnourished individuals
Additionally, anyone who accidentally takes too much Tylenol is at risk. Unfortunately this is easy to do. Many prescription and over the counter drugs contain acetaminophen/Tylenol, but patients don’t always realize this when they take them. If the patient then takes Tylenol itself, they effectively get a “double dose” (or more) and are at higher risk for liver failure.
This can happen even in hospitals. A study of 46,000 hospital patients showed that approximately 2.5% were given accidental overdoses of acetaminophen. This typically happened when they were administered several drugs that each contained acetaminophen on their own. It was rare for doctors to test for poor liver function before recommending high doses, which suggests that medical staff are not aware of the risks associated with Tylenol. Current Tylenol lawsuits suggest that this because of a lack of warnings given to both doctors and patients.
How can filing a Tylenol lawsuit help me or my family?
The law says that a drug manufacturer must adequately warn patients of all risks and side effects. Doctors also need proper instructions and warnings s that they treat patients correctly. If a manufacturer does not provide these warnings, they are responsible for the harm that they cause.
A lawsuit can force Johnson & Johnson to take that responsibility. It allows victims to recover the money they owe for hospital visits, medicines, transplant surgery, home care, and missed time at work. In some cases it is also possible to recover money for your pain and suffering. This kind of financial recovery cannot reverse what happened, but it can remove the financial burden and get you the care you need.
Tylenol lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson allege that:
- The risk of liver failure caused by Tylenol is well documented and Johnson & Johnson has known about it for years
- Tylenol did not carry sufficient warnings and instructions to avoid liver failure
- Doctors did not receive enough training information to use Tylenol correctly
The FDA has already taken action to reduce the amount of acetaminophen added to other drugs. But this does not help patients who were already harmed—or their families.
What should I do if I experienced liver failure while taking Tylenol?
You may have a strong case for financial recovery. But your case is time-sensitive. Laws and court decisions may limit how long you have to make a claim and get the money you’re owed. You need to talk to a lawyer.
John Foy & Associates is here to help. We charge our clients nothing up front and nothing unless we win you a financial recovery. When you call us, our attorneys will sit down with you for a free consultation and help you decide if you have a case. This consultation is your chance to get a professional legal opinion. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get your FREE consultation today.