Daily Trivia – 10/5/11

Question: What cop show spun off the short-lived Richard Grieco series Booker?

Last Question: What poison was found in Extra Strength Tylenol capsules in 1982, leading manufacturers to take stronger steps against product tampering?

Answer: Cyanide

Isn’t it annoying when you’re already not feeling good, and you need an extra sharp pair of scissors or a knife to get through the plastic wrapping that is around the medicine bottle? Then it gets worse when you have a hard time twisting the cap into the position just right so you can open in. Dammit! You need a jackhammer to get through the seal that covers the top opening of the bottle! Whew, you done. Oh crap! You have to dig through miles of cotton to get to the medicine. Of course it rips off in pieces instead of coming out all at once. You can thank the jackass, who poisoned Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules with cyanide back in 1982, for this.

On the morning of September 29, 1982, twelve-year-old Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, died after taking a capsule of Extra-Strength Tylenol. Adam Janus of Arlington Heights, Illinois, died in the hospital shortly thereafter. Adam’s brother Stanley of Lisle, Illinois, and sister-in-law Theresa died after gathering to mourn his death, having taken pills from the same bottle. Soon afterward, Mary McFarland of Elmhurst, Illinois, Paula Prince of Chicago, and Mary Reiner of Winfield, also died in similar incidents. Investigators soon discovered the Tylenol link. This began a nationwide panic.

Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Tylenol, launched a massive recall of its product and offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible. Everybody flushed all their Tylenol down the toilet, and was afraid to take any headache medicine. Sure, they said that this only occured in the capules, and not the solid pills. But, who was going to take a chance?

Since all the deaths occured in the same area, the tampering at the manufacturing level was ruled out. Somebody went into some stores, took the Tylenol bottles, replaced the capsules with cyanide inside, then put them back on the shelves.

The way that Johnson & Johnson handled the crises was legendary. They halted Tylenol production and advertising. They issued a nationwide recall of Tylenol products; an estimated 31 million bottles were in circulation, with a retail value of over $100 million. At the time, it was unusual for companies to recall their products. When it was determined that only capsules were tampered with, they offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules already purchased by the public with solid tablets.

In November, it reintroduced capsules but in a new, triple-sealed package. In order to motivate consumers to buy the product, they offered a $2.50 off coupon on the purchase of their product. They were available in the newspapers as well as by calling a toll-free number.

Many people speculated that Tylenol would never be able to recover from the disaster. However, within a year, Tylenol’s market share rebounded and its tarnished image was significantly repaired.

Oh, by the way, the Tylenol killer has not been caught yet. There is still a $100,000 reward out there if you have information that would lead to the capture.

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