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Woman Suffers With Sjs After Taking Generic Drug

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

Our firm of New York trial attorneys strongly supports national efforts in keeping courts open for injured plaintiffs. Recently argued before the Supreme Court was a case with such implications. The generic anti-inflammatory drug Sulindac was responsible for causing Ms Bartlett, a 53 year old woman, to suffer from a life altering condition called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis (SJS/TEN). Ms. Bartlett was prescribed the drug after suffering shoulder pain. Within days over two thirds of her skin deteriorated, falling off or turning into open wounds requiring her to spend time in a burn unit and many more months in a medically induced coma. The condition left her legally blind and permanently damaged her oesophagus and lungs as well as being physical disfigured.

Mutual Pharmaceutical Company, the maker of the drug was sued by Ms. Bartlett who claimed that the drugs design was dangerous and defective. Ms. Bartlett did not argue that the drugs label was inadequate. In 2010, a jury in the federal district court, Concord, N.H awarded her $21 million. An appeals court upheld the verdict. Now the world’s pharmaceutical companies wait for the Supreme Court ruling on whether Mutual can be held responsible for Ms. Bartlett’s injuries.

The case will have huge consequences for those who wish to take legal recourse with regard to generic drug prescriptions, which count for 80% of all prescriptions in the United States. If the court rules that Mutual cannot be sued, the impact will be to the effect that patients will have very few options available if injured by a generic drug in the future. If the court rules in favour of Ms. Bartlett, some argue that this will be the equivalent to a jury’s decision trumping the authority of the Food and Drug Administration and their expert determination of drug safety. Pharmaceutical companies argue that this would greatly undermine this federal regime.

However ruling against this would assume that the F.D.A when making a decisions on the safety of drugs have all the necessary information from the pharmaceutical companies and moreover never make mistakes in making those determinations. Past cases have shown us that this is not always the case, with many pharmaceutical companies being found guilty of not providing all essential information on their drugs to the testing authorities.

Ms. Bartlett, after 13 eye operations and left legally blind is perhaps seeing more clearly than anyone in saying that generic companies and brand name companies should be held accountable for the medicines they put out there.

Our firm has investigated and litigated SJS/TENs cases for clients injured by a variety of drugs. Our medical malpractice team also investigates whether a client suffered from medical malpractice if healthcare providers failed to diagnose SJS/TENs early enough.

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