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Gout Medicine Linked to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that can be incredibly debilitating, with severe pain and mobility challenges. Gout symptoms include pain, swelling, redness and heat in one joint at a time, often the big toe. Other joints can also be affected, including the knee, ankle and lesser foot. Gout sufferers often go through “flares” when the pain is especially acute, followed by periods of remission (subsided symptoms). Continued flares can lead to joint erosion or permanent deformity, as well as “gouty arthritis,” a more intense form of arthritis. 

Because gout is incurable, treatment consists of self-management strategies and medication. The first step is usually managing the pain of a flare. Options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as steroids, colchicine and ibuprofen. Medication treats only the symptom of gout, not the root causes. 

Allopurinol tablet close up of drug medication used to decrase high blood uric acid levels and to prevent gout and kidney stones and in chemotherapy

Gout is caused by an overproduction of uric acid, a condition called hyperuricemia. The body produces uric acid by breaking down purines, chemicals found naturally in the body and many foods. Changes in lifestyle and diet, such as limiting alcohol intake, eating fewer foods high in purines (e.g., red meat, bacon, and organ meats) and losing weight may help prevent future flares. Another solution is to stop or change medications associated with hyperuricemia

Without treatment, high uric acid levels may form pin-like urate crystals lodged in the joints, causing more pain and damage. Urate crystal deposits may form under the skin in nodules called tophi. These can develop in several body parts and are usually painless but can become tender and swollen during a flare. Urate crystals may also make their way into the urinary tract, resulting in kidney stones.

Physicians may prescribe medications to decrease uric acid levels, such as febuxostat, pegloticase and allopurinol. Medication will reduce flares in many patients; others may have a rare, life-threatening reaction to the drug.

What Is Allopurinol and How Does It Work?

Allopurinol is one of the most commonly used medications to treat gout symptoms, including kidney stones. It decreases uric acid production in the body. Allopurinol does not treat current gout attacks but prevents future flares. 

While most patients find allopurinol very effective, in rare cases, they may experience an adverse reaction to the medication that quickly turns into a life-threatening disorder called Stevens-Johnson syndrome

What Is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome?

Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) is a rare but deadly disorder of the skin and mucous membranes that can be caused by medications such as Alluriponal. It typically presents with flu-like symptoms but rapidly develops into a burning rash, spreading and forming blisters. Those experiencing SJS symptoms need immediate medical attention. If caught early enough, it can be treated. The condition is fatal in 10% of patients.

SJS is characterized by affecting 10% or less of the patient’s skin surface. If untreated, it can morph into a much more dangerous condition called Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). TEN, which is diagnosed when 30% of the skin is affected, requires weeks or months of hospitalization. Recovery is incredibly difficult. TEN kills nearly 50% of patients. 

If you or a loved one has developed SJS or TEN after taking a medication like allopurinol, you have the right to seek legal action. Having a severe or life-threatening reaction to medication is scary. You and your loved ones may miss work, have pain and suffering, and be saddled with thousands in medical bills. A personal injury attorney with experience handling cases related to prescription or over-the-counter medications can help protect your rights.