“Tylenol Terror” Led to Monster Packaging


Health Editor’s Note: If you were around in 1982 you will remember the killing of people with tainted Tylenol. People also got very ill from taking the tainted over the counter medication. There were also copycat alterations of Tylenol that continued and spread fear.  This filled the news and made us rethink whether we even needed to be taking Tylenol. In the meantime it is found that Tylenol (acetaminophen) can be harmful for the liver. While this is not the reason for me placing this article here for you to read, I will give a little background into my last statement.

The liver is the primary site where acetaminophen is metabolized (broken down) and by a chemical process involving a sulphate molecule and metabolites which are not necessarily harmful to the liver, which breaks down the acetaminophen to eliminate it from the body. Too much acetaminophen can overwhelm the pathways and then a toxic compound is formed. This toxic compound can accumulate and destroy the liver.

Back to why this article is here….The issue that I bring up is about the new types of packaging the developed due to the ability of someone to access Tylenol, before it was sold to a customer, and tainted the drug. The use of tamper proof packaging has made it almost impossible to open a package without scissors or a very sharp knife. If you choose to use a sharp knife, there is a very good change that your hand may slip and you can open up a finger or worse.   As we age, our hands are becoming a bit arthritic and it is harder to get a good grip on the heavy plastic and to pull it apart to get to whatever it is protecting against being tampered with. While this type of packaging will more than likely keep the object you have bought unaltered by another, there can almost be a dread as you face the process of getting that object free from the heavy, molded plastic packages. There is also a good chance that after wrestling with the packaging for a bit, you might be sorry you bought the product in the first place, plus would not all the additional thick plastic packaging add to the price of the item as well as add non-degradable plastics to the landfills?…..Carol 

The 1982 Tylenol Terror Shattered American Consumer Innocence

by Kat Eschner  September 2017

A tragedy set the precedent for tamper-proof packaging.

It might seem incredible today, but until 35 years ago, few over-the-counter drug packages came with seals that showed when they’d been tampered with–like the seal covering the mouth of a pill bottle. That all changed after cyanide-laced Extra-Strength Tylenol killed seven people, prompting one of the first product recalls in American history. The deaths began on this day in 1982, when Mary Kellerman, 12, died just hours after taking the drug.

Even today, nobody knows for sure who the so-called “Tylenol terrorist” was, writes Dan Fletcher for Time, although a man named James Lewis spent 13 years in prison for extortion related to the murders. Lewis had sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturers of Tylenol, demanding $1 million to “stop the killing,’” writes Emily Friedman for ABC News. However, nobody has ever been charged with or convicted of the murders themselves.

“Before the ‘Tylenol Terrorist’ struck, Tylenol was the nation’s leading over-the-counter drug and Johnson & Johnson’s bestselling product and some observers speculated that Tylenol would never be able to recover from the disaster,” writes History.com.

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