Karen Bartlett aged 51 of Plaistow, New Hampshire is a millionaire; in fact she is a multi-millionaire. A federal jury awarded her $21 million after 3 days of deliberations in her lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company for her health issues caused by Stevens Johnson syndrome. Philadelphia based Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. was found to be liable for Ms. Bartlett’s injuries after she suffered extreme burns to her skin, mucus membranes and eyes after taking the drug Sulindac. Sulindac is marketed as an anti-inflammatory drug.
Karen developed Stevens Johnson syndrome, a rare and sometimes fatal autoimmune disease caused by drug allergies and reactions after being prescribed the generic form of Clinoril. The rare disease causes the skin to burn from the inside out, and forms severe blisters and rashes as well as affecting the linings of internal organs and mucus membranes. SJS had been known to cause death if not treated properly and a full recovery with no ill effects is not common.
Patients with SJS are often treated in Burn Units or Intensive Care Units and recovery is a long and painful process. According to the lawsuit Bartlett was prescribed Sulindac to treat shoulder pain in 2005. Two weeks later her skin began to show signs of a reaction around her eyes and on her face. Rapidly spreading blisters and rash, as well as pain sent Karen to the hospital. This skin disease eventually took her sight completely and caused permanent damage to internal organs such as her throat, stomach and lungs. Karen spent 112 days in the Burn Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital affected on 65% of her body. Having undergone 12 eye operations and being declared legally blind she felt the need to get the word out to others about this terrifying and debilitating disease.
Because SJS is so rare and it is nearly impossible to predict which drugs will cause this reaction and in which patients it is likely to occur some may wonder how the makers of Sulindac can be held responsible to the tune of $21 million.
“While some people question the amount of money awarded for injured victims, anyone familiar with Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) or the related Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) would agree that no amount of money would compensate a person for the devastation this condition causes.” Stevens Johns Syndrome attorney Greg Jones
As shown in the course of the lawsuit the drug Sulindac has the most reported incidents of Stevens Johnson syndrome of any non steroid anti-inflammatory drug on the market. Initially the lawsuit sought $4 million for Ms. Bartlett’s medical expenses and $20-$30 million for pain and suffering. The awarded amount of $21 million is believed to be the largest product liability award in New Hampshire history.