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Massachusetts Girl Awarded $63M for Side Effects Injuries Caused by Motrin

Feb 20, 2013

A Boston jury has awarded a state teen and her parents $63 million for the life-threatening side effects she suffered after taking Children’s Motrin several years ago.

According to an AP and CBS report, Samantha Reckis was diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) and lost 90 percent of her skin, was blinded, and suffered life-threatening internal injuries after she took over-the-counter Children’s Motrin when she was 7 years old. TEN is the most severe form of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), marked by inflammation of the mucous membranes in the body and severe skin reactions akin to burns.

The parents of Reckis filed a lawsuit against the makers of Motrin, healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company failed to warn about the risks associated with taking its over-the-counter medication, particularly of SJS and TEN. Following a recent five-week trial in Boston, the girl was awarded $50 million in compensatory damages for the injuries she endured and another $13 million was split between her parents.

Reckis had taken Motrin without incident in the past, according to details from the trial as provided by the report. It was around Thanksgiving in 2003 (when Reckis was about 7 years old) when her grandparents gave her Children’s Motrin to allay a fever that the young girl began to develop severe reactions after taking the medicine.

The girl began to develop severe rashes and “burns” on her skin and she was taken for emergency care as the inflammation had spread to her mucous membranes, including eyes, ears, nose, throat, and full respiratory system. As the condition worsened, Reckis had lost most of her skin and was facing life-threatening injuries. She also went blind. Pressure on her brain had built to a point that an emergency surgery in which doctors had to drill through her skull to relieve it was performed. She suffered only minor brain injuries as a result, mostly losing short-term memory.

SJS and TEN are rare side effects associated with taking some drugs, one of them being non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (the Active Ingredient in Motrin products). The Reckis’ claimed when they filed a lawsuit in 2007 against Johnson & Johnson that the company had failed to warn of the dangers associated with these side effects.

The company denied the claim that it failed to warn of these side effects, saying that per-label use of the drug is a proven effective way reducing the symptoms of headache and fever. Clearly, the jury in her case felt otherwise and awarded her this sum in damages.

Reckis is now 16 and an honors student but “must work twice as hard” as others in her class to maintain that level of academic success, caused by the injuries she suffered nearly a decade ago. In a statement to CBS News in Boston, her parents leveled sharp criticism of the drug company: “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.”

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