The news only gets worse for Johnson & Johnson, manufacturer of the popular over-the-counter medication Tylenol. Not only can acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) cause serious liver damage, it has been implicated in serious, and even fatal dermal reactions. According to a warning issued by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration at the beginning of August, acetaminophen may result in one of two forms of toxic epidermal necrosis (TEN), a condition in which the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) separates from the lower layer (dermis) due to cell death. The symptoms are often mistaken for other infections or even the flu, so the condition can be misdiagnosed.
Significantly, while cases of TEN due to bacterial infections are not unknown, the overwhelming majority of cases are the result of the side effects of medication. Recovery requires hospitalization, and can take months. The condition can lead to scarring, changes in skin pigmentation and injury to internal organs.
Another condition caused by acetaminophen, known as acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP) is less serious. Although fatal in 5% of cases, this condition can clear up within ten to fourteen days, once the patient stops taking acetaminophen.
The FDA warning acknowledges that such skin reactions are quite rare – however, there is virtually no way to predict who will suffer such conditions.
Meanwhile, a district court administrator recently turned down a request by attorneys for Johnson & Johnson, asking that all cases against the company be consolidated in its home turf of Middlesex County, New Jersey. The pharmaceutical giant is a big “job creator” in the region, and defense attorney was quite forthcoming when he said that J&J “...provides a positive image in the area...[which] can all be used to an advantage when picking a jury.”
Be that as it may, acting Administrative Director Glenn A. Grant issued his ruling on 31 July, stating that all cases pending against J&J “should continue to be filed in the appropriate counties of venue.” He gave no reasons for his ruling.
Friedman, Alexi. “Johnson & Johnson Seeks Home Court Advantage in Tylenol Liver Damage Lawsuits.” Star-Ledger, 9 June 2013.
N/A. “Tylenol Makers’ Request for Consolidation of N.J. Liver Damage Cases Denied.” Harris Martin Publishing, 14 August 2013.
Sifferlin, Alexandra. “Acetaminophen Linked to Fatal Skin Reactions.” Time, 2 August 2013.
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