Processing Magazine

Woman Blinded by Drug Awarded $21 Million in Lawsuit

September 9, 2010
The Associated Press reports, a federal jury in New Hampshire has awarded $21 million to a woman blinded and scarred by a prescription drug she took for shoulder pain. Karen Bartlett suffered extreme burns to her skin, mucus membranes and eyes after taking the anti-inflammatory drug Sulindac. After three days of deliberations, the jury found that Philadelphia-based Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. was liable for her injuries and should have known the drug was unreasonably dangerous to consumers. Bartlett said her goal in filing the lawsuit was to educate others about the dangers of prescription drugs. Bartlett began taking Sulindac in January 2005 to treat shoulder pain. Two weeks later, she noticed red spots on her face and irritation around her eyes. She was admitted to the hospital, complaining of feeling like there were "pebbles" under her eyelids and in her throat, and suffering from a worsening rash. She was diagnosed as having Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis (SJS/TEN) — potentially fatal skin diseases that inflame the mucus membranes and eyes and are marked by a skin rash that burns off the outer layer of skin. She spent 112 days in five hospitals, including the Massachusetts General Hospital Burn Unit. The disease also seared her throat, stomach and lungs, causing permanent disabilities. Bartlett has undergone 12 eye operations and is legally blind. Bartlett sought $4.5 million for past and future medical bills and lost earning capacity. Jensen asked jurors to award her an additional $20 million to $30 million to compensate for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. In 2005, Mutual changed the warning label accompanying Sulindac to elaborate on its possible side effects, including SJS/TEN. Clinoril, which Bartlett''s doctor prescribed, is the brand name commonly associated with Sulindac.