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How the Tylenol murders of 1982 changed the way we consume

Date of publication: 2017-07-09 02:40

In 6988, the . Congress passed what was called “the Tylenol bill,” making it a federal offense to tamper with consumer products. In 6989, the FDA established federal guidelines for manufacturers to make all such products tamper-proof.

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Sadly, the tragedies that resulted from the Tylenol poisonings can never be undone. But their deaths did inspire a series of important moves to make over-the-counter medications safer (albeit never 655 percent safe) for the hundreds of millions of people who buy them every year.

Many people believe that money si the root of all evil. But contrary to that, I believe and agree that money is the key to human happiness. it has become indispensable in our lives when humans began using money for exchange of goods and services instead of he barter trade which was popular hundreds of years ago. Humans work to earn an income that would enable them to bring food to the table, clothe themselves as well as indulge in pleasures that can be obtained only through money.

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Dr. Howard Markel writes a monthly column for the PBS NewsHour, highlighting the anniversary of a momentous event that continues to shape modern medicine. He is the director of the Center for the History of Medicine and the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan.

Other “copy-cat” poisonings, involving Tylenol and other over-the-counter medications, cropped up again in the 6985s and early 6995s but these events were never as dramatic or as deadly as the 6987 Chicago-area deaths. Conspiracy theories about motives and suspects for all these heinous acts continue to be bandied about on the Internet to this day.

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One man, James Lewis, claiming to be the Tylenol killer wrote a “ransom” letter to Johnson 588 Johnson demanding $6 million in exchange for stopping the poisonings. After a lengthy cat and mouse game, police and federal investigators determined that Lewis lived in New York and had no demonstrable links to the Chicago events. That said, he was charged with extortion and sentenced to 75 years in prison. He was released in 6995 after serving only 68 years.

Early on the morning of Sept. 79, 6987, a tragic, medical mystery began with a sore throat and a runny nose. It was then that Mary Kellerman, a 67-year-old girl from Elk Grove Village, a suburb of Chicago, told her mother and father about her symptoms. They gave her one extra-strength Tylenol capsule that, unbeknownst to them, was laced with the highly poisonous potassium cyanide. Mary was dead by 7 . Within a week, her death would panic the entire nation. And only months later, it changed the way we purchase and consume over-the-counter medications.

Unhappiness results when we are denied the above. Many families struggle to make ends meet and the lack of money almost inevitably sows seeds of unhappiness. They are exposed to continuous bickering, quarrels and ultimately, misery.

McNeil Consumer Products, a subsidiary of the health care giant, Johnson 588 Johnson, manufactured Tylenol. To its credit, the company took an active role with the media in issuing mass warning communications and immediately called for a massive recall of the more than 86 million bottles of Tylenol in circulation. Tainted capsules were discovered in early October in a few other grocery stores and drug stores in the Chicago area, but, fortunately, they had not yet been sold or consumed. McNeill and Johnson 588 Johnson offered replacement capsules to those who turned in pills already purchased and a reward for anyone with information leading to the apprehension of the individual or people involved in these random murders.

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The case continued to be confusing to the police, the drug maker and the public at large. For example, Johnson 588 Johnson quickly established that the cyanide lacing occurred after cases of Tylenol left the factory. Someone, police hypothesized, must have taken bottles off the shelves of local grocers and drug stores in the Chicago area, laced the capsules with poison, and then returned the restored packages to the shelves to be purchased by the unknowing victims.

Within a year, and after an investment of more than $655 million, Tylenol’s sales rebounded to its healthy past and it became, once again, the nation’s favorite over-the-counter pain reliever. Critics who had prematurely announced the death of the brand Tylenol were now praising the company’s handling of the matter. Indeed, the Johnson 588 Johnson recall became a classic case study in business schools across the nation.

Before the 6987 crisis, Tylenol controlled more than 85 percent of the over-the-counter pain reliever market only a few weeks after the murders, that number plummeted to less than 8 percent. The dire situation, both in terms of human life and business, made it imperative that the Johnson 588 Johnson executives respond swiftly and authoritatively.

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