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So. Cal. Woman Says Children's Motrin Blinded Her Daughter

May 3, 2005 | It's one of the most popular children's medicines on the market, but the parents of an eight-year-old girl say their daughter is blind because of Children's Motrin. Healthline 3's Beth Fisher has been digging deeper into this over the counter scandal. There are cases of families suing Johnson & Johnson, claiming their kids had allergic reactions to over the counter Children's Motrin.

You don't hear about them, because those cases settled out of court and a gag order was imposed. But the Healthline 3 Team found one family that doesn't want to settle because they want the world to know they believe Children's Motrin cost their daughter her sight.

"I've been such a proud mom. She's been just the most delightful, gorgeous, healthy, bright, active child until this happened and now we have a sick, blind, unhappy, suffering child at home all the time." After just three doses of Children's Motrin to lower a high fever, Sabrina Johnson's mom realized something was horribly wrong. "She looked very strange, her eyes were all puffed up, her mouth was puffy and had sores and it looked sore and cracked and so at that point I immediately called the doctor."

Sabrina was diagnosed with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, or SJS, the name given when you have an allergic reaction to medicine. Sabrina is now blind, has a deficient immune system and can't tolerate light. Sabrina always wears sunglasses and a hat over her face to block out light. On bad days, she lives in the closet. "If you close all the blinds in the house, it's still not enough. She said in one interview I had my sunglasses on, a hat on my face, a blanket over my head, sitting in a closet with the door closed and I still had to try to block the light from coming in under the bottom and it wasn't enough. It hurts so much."

When we were in California, Sabrina wasn't well enough to give an interview, but her family attorney provided us with footage of her. Sabrina has already had 20 surgeries to try to help her vision. Her family is suing Johnson & Johnson for damages, but what they really want is a warning label on Children's Motrin bottles. "I really do feel like Johnson & Johnson is responsible. Number one, they put this drug out there on the marketplace initially as a prescription only drug. They had a warning with that drug so they obviously knew about these consequences, they then watered down that warning when they made an over the counter medication."

Aspirin bottles currently have a warning the drug may cause Reyes Syndrome, a rare but deadly condition. The Johnson's want a similar warning about SJS on Children's Motrin bottles. They also want the National Institutes of Health to keep records about SJS cases and their cause to help track how widespread the problem is. Finally, they want their daughter back, who went from an active life on the soccer field and playground, to a life in the dark.

"It seems like such a small, simple request. Put a label on the bottle on the box."

"Right, and also make people aware, make them understand what SJS is."

"Why wouldn't a drug company just do that?"

"I assume they're worried about losing business, but better to lose business than children's lives. Children's lives, I can't believe they're willing to do that."

A spokesperson for Children's Motrin would not answer our questions, but did provide us with this statement: "We are aware of a report of a seven-year-old girl diagnosed with SJS allegedly associated with the use of Children's Motrin. SJS is a very rare condition. While specific causes of the condition in any given instance are unknown, it has been reported to be associated with a wide variety of medications and may also be caused by a viral infection." She went on to say they are investigating Sabrina's case.

Earlier this year, Sabrina testified in front of the FDA in Washington herself, asking that Johnson & Johnson include warning labels about SJS on Children's Motrin. This case could go to court in a year or two.

Almost any drug can cause SJS. Even a drug you've taken safely before. And anyone can get SJS, not just children. Here are the signs you need to watch for:

Stevens Johnson Syndrome often starts with a rash, but not always.

The rash turns to blisters.

The skin around the eyes and mouth look cracked and swollen.

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