Here's a side effect no one saw coming: A Massachusetts teen has been awarded $63 million in a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson after the pain reliever Children's Motrin blinded her and caused most of her skin to fall off almost a decade ago, the Associated Press reported.
A Plymouth, Mass. Superior Court delivered the decision Wednesday, ordering Johnson & Johnson and its McNeil-PPC Inc. subsidiary to pay Samantha Reckis and her family $109 million, including interest.
Samantha Reckis was just 7-years-old when she took Motrin brand ibuprofen, Brad Henry, the family's lawyer, said. After she'd taken the medicine, the young girl experienced a reportedly rare side effect, toxic epidermal necrolysis, permanently blinding her, and causing her to lose 90 percent of the skin on her body. The side effect also caused brain damage, forcing surgeons to drill into her skull to relieve pressure. The damage "thankfully" only involved short-term memory loss, her attorney said.
Samantha's respiratory system was also "seared" by the rare side effect. Her lung capacity was reduced so drastically by the disease it now hovers around 20 percent, according to her lawyer.
Toxic epidermal necrolysis is "a potentially fatal skin disease that inflames the mucus membranes and eyes and is marked by a rash that burns off the outer layer of skin," according to the Associated Press.
Strangely enough, this wasn't the first time Samantha had taken Children's Motrin; she'd been administered the medicine several times before without suffering any kind of side effects. When Samantha's parents gave her the drug to treat her fever in 2003, the toxic epidermal necrolysis that resulted had doctors totally stumped. With her throat, mouth, eyes, esophagus, intestinal tract, respiratory system, and reproductive system inflamed, doctors were forced to put her into a coma.
The lawsuit was filed by the Reckis family in January 2007. The family's attorneys alleged that Samantha's blindness and skin loss was the result of taking Motrin and that Johnson & Johnson had failed to properly warn consumers that the drug could cause potentially life-threatening allergic reactions.
Johnson & Johnson subsidiary McNeil announced the company disagreed with the court's verdict and said it is considering its legal options in the case moving forward.
"The Reckis family has suffered a tragedy, and we sympathize deeply with them," McNeil said in a statement.
McNeil claimed the company had not misrepresented the potential side effects of Children's Motrin, insisting the medicine had been "labeled appropriately," and that when the drug is used as directed it is "a safe and effective treatment option for minor aches and pains and fever."
"A number of medicines, including ibuprofen, have been associated with allergic reactions and as noted on the label, consumers should stop using medications and immediately contact a healthcare professional if they have an allergic reaction," McNeil concluded in the statement.