We have all encountered the frustration of pill bottles that just will not open. Sometimes it’s the foil that always seems too strong; sometimes it’s the dreaded “child safe” cap that only children seem able to open. But these measures do serve a purpose. Even the most benign, over-the-counter medication can be dangerous if taken improperly. Tamper-proof seals and lids prevent children from taking them. It also prevents people from tampering with the medication in stores before anyone even has a chance to buy it.
Recently, Excedrin was recalled off of shelves due to holes found in the protective seals. If you were around in the ‘80s, chances are this brings back a few memories of someone opening containers of Tylenol in various pharmacies and replacing a few of the pills with cyanide capsules that looked identical to the actual medication. In Chicago alone, this killed seven people. Countrywide, it killed several more as popularity of the case brought copycats with it. With no clear motive and no connection between the victims aside from purchasing Tylenol, it is still unclear who started this morbid chain of events.
This infamous case is why protective seals and tamper-proof lids exist in the first place, and it is certainly a harrowing tale — especially as it remains unsolved and unpunished to this day. This is why the PPPA (Poison Prevention Packaging Act) exists. Although it was enacted before the “Tylenol murders,” it was not enforced properly until they had no choice.
Keeping yourself safe when purchasing and using OTC medications
While this recall happened before anyone could get seriously hurt, it is an unfortunate fact that companies may put profits over the health and safety of their consumers, and may neglect recalling defective product because of that. If this happens, you might find yourself dealing with more than just a headache. There are a couple precautions you can take:
- Be observant. Before you buy medication, even if it is prescribed, take a moment to inspect the packaging. Make sure everything is sealed and in place. If you bring it home and find the foil is ripped or missing, do not take the pills.
- Do your research. Know what brands are often recalled and why. Even if you do not avoid them in the future, you will at least have a better idea of potential risks and can take more immediate action if necessary.
- Keep all medication out of reach from children. Even if a seal is missing, even if the lid is easy to open, the best way to make sure it does not fall into your children’s hands is to make sure they cannot reach it in the first place.
- Save everything. If worse comes to worst, you may have a lawsuit on your hands. Keeping your receipt, the pills in question, and the original packaging they came in can help bolster your case and hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable for their negligence.
Can you sue if your medication has been tampered with?
It depends. If you buy some OTC meds and open the cap, only to see a missing seal, then no – you cannot sue. This is because you haven’t suffered any injuries which lead to damages.
If you take medication and then find out it was tampered with, then you could have a lawsuit on your hands provided you sustained an injury of some kind. For example, if you took what you thought were OTC pain relievers and suffered an allergic reaction, and then find out that the medication you took was, in fact, something else entirely, you could make a claim for damages. You can also make a defective product claim if you are prescribed a medication that does not list all its side effects or does not warn about potential counter indications. If your doctor is negligent in prescribing a medication – ignores the potential side effects, doesn’t take a full medical history, overprescribes in order to receive a kickback, etc. – then you could have a medical malpractice claim on your hands.
When faced with something like defective medication and improper packaging, above all else, the best thing you can do is hire an experienced attorney who knows how to handle your case. Corporations, medical or not, want nothing more than to avoid lawsuits and they hire vicious lawyers who do not care about you to do so. You need someone who can be vicious right back, while giving you the compassion and understanding you deserve.
At Plattner Verderame, PC, we represent people who have been harmed because of defective products and dangerous medications. We know your rights and we care about the health and safety of you and your loved ones. For free, detailed information, call our injury lawyers in Phoenix or Tempe today at 602-266-2002 or fill out our contact form.
I have been active in leadership in the Arizona Association for Justice (lawyers who represent injured folks, and formerly known as the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) since 1985. I served as President in 1991. I was an active participant in battles to protect the Arizona Constitution from the insurance industry and big business interests in 1986, 1990 and 1994.
Read more about Richard Plattner