Consumer health product giant Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $63 million plus interest to a Massachusetts teenager who suffered a serious skin reaction and lingering medical complications after taking the pain reliever Children’s Motrin.
Samantha Reckis was given the ibuprofen when she was 7, an over-the-counter medicine she had taken previously without experiencing ill effects. But this time, Samantha suffered a severe reaction. Her throat, mouth, eyes, esophagus, intestinal tract, respiratory system and reproductive system became inflamed, and her doctors had to put Samantha into a coma to treat her.
She was diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), a more serious version of Stephens Johnson Syndrome (SJS). The condition caused 90 percent of her skin to peel off, made her go blind, damaged her brain, and so badly scarred her respiratory system that she now only has 20 percent lung capacity.
The family filed the lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in 2007, alleging that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn consumers that the drug could cause life threatening skin reactions. The five-week trial ended with the jury awarding $50 million in compensatory damages to Samantha and $6.5 million to each of her parents.
TEN and SJS are considered allergic reactions to some common medications, including anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-gout drugs, antibiotics and anti-seizure medications.
Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary McNeil say the ruling is harsh, but Samantha and her family say they feel justified. The family issued the following statement to CBS Boston:
“The Reckis family is forever grateful that this courageous and wise jury of twelve citizens of Plymouth County saw and declared the truth about what happened to Samantha in 2003: that Children’s Motrin caused Sammy’s life-altering injuries. Drug companies like Johnson & Johnson can no longer hide behind an approval by the overworked FDA as an excuse not to warn consumers about known, devastating drug reactions like SJS and TEN. Parents like us have a right to know. It was an historic day for consumer safety.”