Wednesday, May. 06, 2009

Tylenol Poisonings

When seven people died after ingesting Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide in the Chicago area, the authorities had no way of knowing just how far the September 1982 tampering had spread. Officials took to the streets with megaphones, warning residents to throw out any capsules they may have lying around their home.

Health officials now suspect someone tampered with the pills on the drugstore shelves, though they've never arrested anyone in the case.(In February, the FBI reopened its investigation of tax consultant James Lewis, who had written a letter to Tylenol's manufacturer in October 1982 demanding $1 million to "stop the killings." Lewis has denied responsibility.) The incident set off waves of copycat incidents across the country, in some cases resulting in serious illness or fatalities. Tylenol lost millions recalling pills from around the country and millions more in lost sales. The panic didn't subside until the FDA mandated new tamper-proof safety measures for food and over-the-counter drugs, dramatically improving product safety.

Read a brief history of the Tylenol murders.