Girl Stricken with Stevens Johnson Syndrome Awarded Millions in Children’s Motrin Lawsuit

A Philadelphia jury has awarded $10 million to the family of a teenage girl who developed <"">Stevens Johnson Syndrome after she took Children’s Motrin (ibuprofen). The family had originally sought at least $5 million for Brianna Maya’s injuries, which occurred when she was only 3 1/2 years old.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a severe sensitivity reaction that can be caused by many drugs. It presents with blistering of mucous membranes, typically in the mouth, eyes, and vagina and patchy areas of rash, that eventually peel off the skin. The condition can even spread to internal organs, and it can cause scarring and even blindness. When the disorder affects more than 30% of the body, the condition is typically referred to as toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). Stevens Johnson Syndrome and TEN usually require treatment in hospital burn units.

According to the Maya family lawsuit, Brianna was left blind in one eye and suffered burns over 84 percent of her body after taking Children’s Motrin in 2000 for a cold and fever. Her family argued that a warning for Stevens Johnson Syndrome was not included on the medication’s labeling that year.

According to Bloomberg News, the jury in the case deliberated for 10 hours before finding that Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit “‘was negligent for not providing a proper warning about Children’s Motrin’s risks and that failure was ‘a factual cause’ of the girl’s injuries.” However, the jury did not agree with plaintiffs’ claims that Motrin was defective, or that McNeil officials’ conduct warranted an award of punitive damages.

This is the third Stevens Johnson Syndrome lawsuit Johnson & Johnson and McNeil have defended in recent years. According to Bloomberg, a federal jury in Illinois awarded a woman $3.5 million in a case involving Children’s Motrin in 2010, but that award was thrown out on procedural grounds. Two years previous, a California found against the family of an 11-year-old girl in a case that sought $1 billion.

As we reported previously, Johnson & Johnson and McNeil added warnings about “severe allergic reactions” which could present with “rashes and blisters” to over-the-counter ibuprofen products, but no specific mention of Stevens Johnson Syndrome is made. Patient advocates maintain that the current drug allergy alert on labels of many over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen don’t adequately warn users about the risk of Stevens Johnson Syndrome.

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