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Family Files $25 Million Lawsuit Against Johnson & Johnson

Apr 28, 2004 | AP

The family of a Queen Anne's County woman who drowned in her bathtub after using a pain medication patch has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the patch's manufacturer, health care giant Johnson & Johnson.

The suit alleges Patricia C. Wroten, 51, died on Feb. 6 as a result of a faulty Duragesic patch that leaked dangerous levels of opiates into her body.

Co-defendant Janssen Pharmaceutica Products LP, the Titusville, N.J., based subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson that produces Duragesic, recalled a batch of the patches in February after determining that some of them were leaking medication along one edge. The plaintiffs claim the patch Wroten was wearing when she died was from the recalled lot.

Duragesic is a prescription-only medication for "moderate to severe chronic pain," according to a Web site posted by its manufacturer.

The patch contains fentanyl, "an opioid pain medication" and can function for up to three days.

Wroten was washing her hair in the bathtub when the harmful effects of the drug hit her, rendered her unconscious and led to her drowning, the suit alleges.

The suit, which was filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Tuesday, also alleges that Wroten "suffered severe emotional and physical pain" prior to losing consciousness.

A copy of the state medical examiner's report attached to the suit gives the cause of death as drowning.

A statement prominently displayed on the Duragesic Web site Tuesday warned, "Some patches in this lot might leak medication."

The patches contain "a strong opiate in the form of a gel," the statement continued, and if that gel leaks the wearer can absorb either too much or too little of the drug.

In the worst-case scenario, "overexposure may cause potentially life threatening complications," the company acknowledged in the statement.

Alza Corp., the California-based company that manufactures the patches, also was named as a defendant in the suit. It became a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson in 2001.

One of Wroten's daughters, Treena C. Clampitt, is claiming $10 million as personal representative of her mother's estate and $5 million for her own pain and suffering.

Wroten's two other children, Alan A. Zlotorzynski and Brian S. Zlotorzynski, are claiming $5 million each.

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