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SJS Dilantin: Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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Vista, CAJerra was 18 months old when she was diagnosed with epilepsy. "At first she was on Phenobarbital, but it turned her into a Jekyll and Hyde so we insisted she get another medication," says Randy, her father. "They came up with Dilantin, an anticonvulsant, which Jerra took for about 10 years." Jerra is fortunate that her only Dilantin side effect was blisters in her mouth—others on the medication have succumbed to Stevens Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (SJS/TEN).

"Jerra had a grand mal seizure when she was a baby and was in and out of hospital for six years," says Randy. "She needed a blood count every three months to make sure there was no liver damage. Jerra doesn't remember anything about it, but I do. She suffered terribly from those blisters and her doctor said it was a Dilantin side effect—Jerra is 33 now so these symptoms—perhaps the beginning of Stevens Johnson Syndrome—have been known about for a long time.

"Jerra still had seizures, but the doctors were trying to find the right level of Dilantin to give her. One neurologist, out of the clear blue sky, said that Dilantin was the wrong medication to give her. It was designed for petit mal, not grand mal seizures."

That decision to stop Dilantin may have saved Jerra's life.

Unfortunately, many children suffer complications from medications like Dilantin. In March 2004 a nine-year-old girl had two seizures and was brought to NYU-Tisch Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and hydrocephalus. She underwent surgery but continued to have seizures, so Dilantin was prescribed. She was also given Flagyl and Children's Motrin. At the beginning of May, the child developed a rash and fever and shortly afterward was diagnosed with SJS, which later developed into Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). On June 2, 2004, the child died of TEN.

In May 2006 her parents filed a wrongful death suit against G.D. Searle & Co., Pharmacia Corp., Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, Pfizer (collectively, the Pfizer defendants), and McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals.

The first complaints claimed that Flagyl and Children's Motrin, also manufactured by the Pfizer defendants, caused the child to develop to SJS/TEN. In September 2008, Dilantin was added to the complaint--after the plaintiffs retained new counsel. (The motion was denied, and then appealed).

On December 29, 2009, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department decided to address the Dilantin claim. It is interesting to note that fact discovery was still being conducted in September 2008 and that Pfizer had been sued a number of times regarding Dilantin. In fact, the drug company had a "Dilantin settlement program" in place. The lawsuit contends that "as such, the Pfizer defendants are already aware of the potential issues concerning this drug and can easily compile the necessary documents to respond to plaintiffs' Dilantin-based discovery requests."

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READER COMMENTS


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I was prescribed Dilantin whenever I was having epilepsy
Seizures. I was on this medication for 5 years. From time to time I have blister to come in my mouth which leads to a cold sore. I have had this for quite sometime now. It been a while since I have taken the medication, but could it be a cause of the reason I have these unwanted fever blister?

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