But they haven’t told you.
The Star has obtained an internal report from drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson — never before made public — that found between 2000 and 2011, an average of 68 Canadians died each year because of acetaminophen, the painkiller found in hundreds of products from Tylenol to NyQuil.
The Star also obtained two internal reports from Health Canada on use of the painkiller. Those reports found that nearly half of acetaminophen-related deaths investigated by coroners are “unintentional” — people who overdosed accidentally, perhaps because they combined several products without realizing they all contained acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen is very safe when taken as directed, and more than four billion doses are sold to Canadians annually. But the reports, completed last year, contain troublingstatistics and suggest that Health Canada is dragging its heels on major safety reforms recommended by its own scientific experts, an ongoing Star investigation has found.
The Johnson & Johnson report, marked “confidential” and dated September 2014, was released internally and never shared with Health Canada. It documents 820 deaths associated with acetaminophen overdose between 2000 and 2011. The report also notes there were more than 26,300 acetaminophen-related hospitalizations between 2004 and 2013 — an analysis that does not include British Columbia or Quebec.
These statistics, along with others in the report, were “alarming” to a senior industry insider who spoke to the Star on the condition of anonymity.
“I said, ‘My God, if Health Canada is looking at the same thing, we’re in trouble,’ ” he recalled.
He added that the reports triggered an internal debate about reducing dosages and decreasing package sizes. No such changes have been made.
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