Family Blames Girl's Blindness on Motrin
Lawsuit Claims Child's Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Due to Children's Motrin
WebMD News Archive
June 13, 2008 -- Children's Motrin caused the severe Stevens-Johnson syndrome that
blinded a California girl, a lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit -- and at least nine others scheduled this year and next in
cities across the U.S. -- seeks stronger label warnings and punitive damages
girl, Sabrina Johnson, was 6 years old in September 2003 when she was sent home
from school with a fever. Her parents gave her Children's Motrin drops
that afternoon and again that night.
The next morning, the lawsuit says, Sabrina woke with a high fever. Her eyes
were pink and her mouth was swollen and covered with sores. Her pediatrician
had her hospitalized at Cedars Sinai Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. By the next
day, she was blind in both eyes. Doctors diagnosed Stevens-Johnson
"This is a very important consumer case involving the really potent
tragedy of a little girl blinded by Children's Motrin, an over-the-counter,
seemingly benign medication," Browne Greene,
the attorney representing the Johnson family, tells WebMD.
Greene claims that McNeil PPC, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has
long known of a link between ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Motrin, and
Stevens-Johnson syndrome. While the prescription version of the drug has
stronger warnings, Greene says, the over-the-counter version mentions nothing
about this risk.
"The parents gave the Motrin to a very healthy little girl, 6 at the
time, and soon thereafter she started getting worse, and there was nothing on
the package insert or label that said anything significant or life-threatening
might happen," Greene says. "The label carries only the most benign and
general kind of stuff."
In a statement provided to WebMD by a McNeil spokesman, the company says it
is aware of reports alleging an association between Children's Motrin and
Stevens-Johnson syndrome. The statement notes that Stevens-Johnson syndrome has
been linked with a wide variety of medications and even viral infections.
"We are deeply concerned about all matters related to our products and
have reviewed case reports, reviewed the scientific literature, reviewed the
latest studies and consulted with the top experts in the field," the
statement says. "Based upon our investigation we firmly believe that it is
unlikely ibuprofen can cause SJS and that Children's Motrin is safe and
effective when used as directed, and is labeled appropriately."
Greene says one of the major goals of the lawsuit is to demand that
ibuprofen products carry warning labels. The suit also asks compensation for
medical and legal expenses, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a rare, often fatal adverse reaction triggered
by many different kinds of drugs, particularly certain antibiotics and some
painkillers. A recent New York study linked ibuprofen to nearly half of the 32
children referred to a local burn unit over an eight-year period.