Court case may bring deadly truth about Tylenol into the open

The deep, dark secret about the dangers of Tylenol may finally be revealed.

Last year I told you about a lawsuit that must have had Tylenol maker McNeil Consumer Healthcare in a panic.

It threatened to expose how McNeil allegedly knew about Tylenol’s risks for decades, and even conducted secret research called “Project PAPA” on making the drug safer.

When McNeil settled the case out of court, it was probably hoping that the details on Project PAPA were tucked away for good.

Well, not so fast.

Because now the company is facing a new rash of lawsuits, and the first one will be starting up in just a few weeks.

And when it does, we may finally learn the truth about a drug that’s the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. — and what the company that’s been making it for over 60 years knew about just how dangerous it can be.

Taken as directed

Denice Hayes could have never imagined that her life — and death — would become the biggest thorn in McNeil’s side.

The Alabama teacher died six years ago at the age of 51 from acute liver failure, which her family says was caused by taking Tylenol products.

And she’s far from the only one.

Over the years I’ve told you story after story of people — young, old and in between — who have crossed that fine line between a “safe” dose of acetaminophen and a potentially deadly one.

The drug, which is found in hundreds of Rx and OTC meds, such as Tylenol, lands 78,000 people in the ER every year and has killed thousands. Acetaminophen is recognized as the main cause of acute liver failure in the United States.

And for many, like Hayes, it wasn’t an overdose or ignoring the directions that got them in trouble.

Hayes, said her sister, Rana Terry, took the drug as directed.

But if you’re wondering what the Hayes case, or any of the hundreds of others now pending are out to prove, look no further than Project PAPA.

Over 40 years ago, McNeill (now owned by Johnson & Johnson) began “confidential/proprietary research” about how to “improve Tylenol.” Project Protect and Project PAPA were code names given to this top-secret plan.

And as you can imagine, McNeill has been fighting tooth and nail to keep this information secret. It could reveal, as the judge in the case said, “knowledge of a defect in Tylenol.”

In other words, if McNeil knew the risks of Tylenol, could it have been made any safer? And if so, why wasn’t it?

The judge hasn’t made a final ruling yet on whether he’ll allow Project PAPA to come out in the Hayes trial, but he did say that the “public’s health and safety” will override any “privacy interests” that McNeil might have in keeping it confidential.

But the judge did make one big decision that must have had McNeil and J&J executives shaking in their boots.

He ruled that a study done 11 years ago that found Tylenol can cause acute liver failure when taken at the “maximum daily recommended dose” can be presented in the Hayes trial.

You read that right. The “recommended dose” can kill.

Sadly, that’s something too many people have had to find out all on their own.

Look, we know the FDA won’t be doing anything to make acetaminophen safer. And we may soon find out why McNeill didn’t.

But when all is said and done, it appears the only place where the real truth about this drug will come out is in a federal courtroom, where Denice Hayes’ story will be told.

“Did Tylenol kill her sister? Alabama woman’s lawsuit could determine course for hundreds” Kent Faulk, June 16, 2016,