A Los Angeles jury has awarded $48.1 million to a man who suffered Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a debilitating and potentially life-threatening skin rash, which he developed after taking Motrin as a teenager.
The lawsuit over Stevens-Johnson syndrome was filed by Christopher Trejo in 2008, and has faced a lengthy battle through a number of courts before trial began in August in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The Honduran-born Trejo, now 22, was 15 years old when he took Motrin and developed the severe reaction that causes the skin burns from the inside out. The condition eventually progressed from Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) to the more severe toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), which is diagnosed when the skin lesions affect more than 30% of the body.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis are painful and debilitating conditions where the skin burns, blisters and may begin to separate from the body. Treatment in a hospital Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Burn Unit is often required, and the conditions can be fatal in many cases.
According to allegations raised in the Motrin lawsuit, Trejo developed the skin reaction in 2005. He was hospitalized for days and was affected all over of his body. Since then he has had vision problems and problems with some internal organs.
Trejo accused Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturers of Motrin, of negligence in failing to warn consumers that the painkiller could cause potentially fatal skin reactions. According to the complaint, the drug maker misrepresented study results and did not tell federal drug regulators or the medical community the entire truth about the risk of SJS and TEN from Motrin when it asked for approval to sell the product without a prescription.
When the painkiller was prescription-only, it carried a warning about the risks of SJS. Although warnings about Motrin skin reaction side effects are included in some other countries, Johnson & Johnson still does not warn about the the risk of SJS and TEN from Motrin on the packaging in the United States.
Trejo’s court victory is the second this year for a plaintiff who claimed that Motrin, the brand name for ibuprofen, causes SJS or TEN. In May, a Philadelphia jury awarded $10 million to the family of Brianna Maya, a 12-year-old girl who has been left blinded in one eye and suffered burns over 84% of her body after taking Children’s Motrin in 2000. In that case, the jury also ruled that Johnson & Johnson was negligent in failing to provide proper warnings about the risk of SJS and TEN from Children’s Motrin on the medication’s label.