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A California judge has ordered Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. to turn over additional documents and e-mails, as well as produce employees and executives for depositions in a fentanyl patch death lawsuit filed by the family of a 37-year old woman who overdosed due to alleged defects in a Watson pain patch.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of Nicole Bristol, who died on February 9, 2008, shortly after placing a Watson fentanyl pain patch on her skin. According to allegations in the complaint, Bristol died of a fentanyl overdose when the patch delivered more of the powerful narcotic painkiller than it was supposed to.
On March 11, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard E. Rico ordered Watson to make company officials available for depositions and to turn over documents and e-mails requested by attorneys representing Bristol’s family. The company has until April 11 to turn over the documents and the depositions will take place between April 11 and June 11.
The Watson fentanyl patch is a generic version of the Duragesic pain patch, which is manufactured by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. The pain patch is prescribed to patients suffering from chronic, severe pain.
While it is designed to slowly deliver a dose of the powerful painkiller Fentanyl, which is an opioid that is considered 100 times more powerful than heroine, there have been a number of reported problems with fentanyl pain patches. If too much of the medication is delivered or if the fentanyl gel contained in the patch comes in direct contact with the skin, it can cause a fatal fentanyl patch overdose.
In the lawsuit, the family alleges that the Watson pain patch used a faulty “reservoir” design, which has been prone to manufacturing errors and can allow the fentanyl gel to leak out of the patch and onto the skin. Although many makers of generic patches use a “matrix” design, which makes leaks impossible, Watson continues to use to the “reservoir” design.
A number of Watson fentanyl patch deaths have resulted in lawsuits against the drug maker. In addition, Watson fentanyl patch recalls have been issued due to manufacturing defects, where machines that cut the patches were incorrectly calibrated, resulting in cuts to the drug storage pouch of the patch and posing a risk of lethal amounts of fentanyl leaking directly onto the skin of users or caregivers.