Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a rare but serious disorder of the mucous membranes and skin. If untreated or improperly treated, it can become life-threatening and life-altering. Once more than 30% of the skin is affected, it is a far more severe condition known as toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). Both conditions require medical intervention and treatment. SJS and TEN patients will often need hospitalization to receive pain medication, fluids and skin supportive treatment.
What Causes Stevens-Johnson Syndrome?
While Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a relatively rare illness, two million Americans are diagnosed with it every year. Most SJS cases are triggered by taking certain prescription drugs. Medications that can cause SJS include pain relievers such as naproxen sodium (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), and acetaminophen (Tylenol); HIV medication (Nevirapine); mental illness medication such as antipsychotics; anticonvulsants for seizure control; and some antibiotics. Allopurinol, a drug for treating gout and kidney stones, was found to cause 75% of SJS cases in one study. SJS can also be caused by infection.
Medical Negligence Can Lead To SJS
Your physician or healthcare provider should be able to diagnose SJS or TEN with a thorough examination and medical history. If you or someone you care about exhibits symptoms of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, it is essential to seek urgent medical assistance.
Doctors are responsible for keeping patients informed about updated warnings related to their medications, including changes in side effects and appropriate uses. Doctors should explain the risk of developing SJS when prescribing a drug that could trigger it. Not fully explaining the possible risks of any medication is negligence. If a patient develops Stevens-Johnson Syndrome or other health problems due to inadequate warning may be considered medical malpractice.
Other healthcare professionals like pharmacists can also commit medical malpractice. Like doctors, pharmacists can be held negligent if they fail to regularly review and provide counsel on side effects, proper usage and other information about any medication they fill for consumers.
In some cases, the drug manufacturer could be sued for negligence. As drug manufacturers have a responsibility to provide updated information about risk factors and side effects, they could be held responsible for failing to warn doctors, pharmacists and consumers. Medication warnings that appear on prescriptions and their containers are often hidden in a lengthy information packet, hard for consumers to read or missing altogether.
Tips for Hiring an Attorney with Experience in SJS Claims
Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome or TEN? If you believe this was due to medical malpractice, there are legal avenues worth exploring. Here’s what to look for in a medical malpractice attorney.
- Look for law firms with a history of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome claims. This may mean asking pointed questions about the number of claims that the firm has handled related to SJS and TEN.
- Gauge the attorney’s commitment to these types of cases by asking how the attorney and the firm stay up-to-date on SJS, TEN and related medical issues.
- Ask the firm about the standard of care that a Stevens-Johnson Syndrome patient should receive. This will give you an idea of how thoroughly they understand the conditions themselves.
- Probe the law firm and its attorneys about what types of medication can cause SJS and TEN. If the attorneys list some of the drugs listed above, you know they have real experience with SJS and TEN cases.
- One of the most telling questions that you can ask is how the law firm and attorneys will prove that a given medication or a doctor’s negligence caused Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. The answer will clarify how willing and capable the firm is to prepare, file and potentially prosecute SJS and TEN claims in the courtroom.
The road to recovery from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome can be long and difficult without medical and financial support. Finding the right medical malpractice attorney can pave an easier road for you and your loved ones. Holding doctors and other healthcare providers accountable for medical malpractice will help keep others safe and less at risk of developing SJS or TEN.