Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Injury Lawyers

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome Injury Lawyers

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) is a skin condition that can mirror third-degree burn symptoms, usually brought on by adverse drug reactions. However, many cases of SJS are idiopathic — arising from no apparent origin — or result from viral infections, making proper identification a challenge. But it is also very important. Early diagnosis by a competent doctor raises the chances of focused, effective treatment.

SJS forms a spectrum of disease along with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), and together they affect 1 to 2 million people per year. It’s thought that SJS/TEN are greatly underdiagnosed, and a bad diagnosis can be deadly — the risk of death from SJS ranges from 5–10 percent, while TEN has a mortality rate of 30 percent. Overall, adverse drug reactions cause about 150,000 deaths per year in the US.

Drugs Known to Cause SJS

SJS most often strikes people with immature or compromised immune systems like those with HIV/AIDS, lupus, children or the elderly. The following is a non-exhaustive list of drugs linked to SJS:

  • Antibiotics like Penicillin, Amoxicillin and Ampicillin
  • Sulfa drugs like Bactrim
  • Drugs used to treat acne like Tetracycline and Accutane 
  • NSAIDs like ibuprofen (sold as Advil and Motrin)
  • Drugs used to treat seizures like Tegretol, Dilantin and Depakote
  • Sedatives like Phenobarbital
  • Drugs used to treat gout like Allopurinal 
  • Cox-2 inhibitors like Bextra and Celebrex
  • Lenalidomide (sold as Revlimid)
  • Herbal supplements with ginseng
  • Acetaminophen (sold as Tylenol)
  • Drugs used to treat viral and fungal disease like Tamiflu and Lamictal 

In addition, a 2013 study published in Archives of Dermatology found that 10 percent of those with Han Chinese ancestry have a gene associated with increased risk of SJS/TEN when treated with the epilepsy drug carbamazepine. The FDA recommends that people of Asian descent undergo genetic screening for the gene variant, known as HLA-B*1502, before taking carbamazepine-containing drugs.

Symptoms of SJS

SJS usually begins with flu-like symptoms, then progresses into:

  • Hives 
  • Painful red or purple rashes
  • Joint aches
  • Conjunctivitis 
  • Swelling of the eyelids and tongue
  • Blisters or lesions on the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, eyes, genitals, urinary tract, GI tract and/or respiratory tract
  • Ulceration of blisters leading to shedding of the skin

SJS symptoms include hives. Source: Wikipedia

SJS/TEN Complications

SJS refers to those who have developed lesions on 10 percent of their bodies — 15–25 percent of SJS cases develop into TEN, where lesions cover 30 percent of the body.

The resultant inflammation and swelling can lead to:

  • Blindness or other vision problems
  • Body temperature regulation problems
  • Pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs)
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the muscles in the heart)
  • Hepatitis
  • Hematuria (blood in the urine)
  • Kidney failure
  • Complications resulting from scarring of the skin, GI tract, respiratory tract and other organ systems
  • Chronic pain
  • Sepsis
  • Death

SJS-caused confluent epidermal necrosis — the separation of the epidermis and dermis — can result in sepsis and death. Source: Wikipedia

The Standard of Care for SJS

Proper treatment of SJS depends on an accurate diagnosis. If the condition has been caused by an adverse drug reaction, it’s important to identify and stop use of the drug immediately. If the cause is a viral infection, treatment of this infection should be pursued in addition to SJS treatment.

For more mild cases of SJS, corticosteroids are often used to reduce rash and swelling and prevent the progression of worsening symptoms.

Treatment of more severe cases depends on the body systems involved. Those with blisters on the eyes and eyelids are often referred to ophthalmologists to prevent permanent eye damage. Those with severe burn-like symptoms are treated at burn centers, where fluid replacement, sterile environments for infection prevention and skin graft consultation can be provided.

Product Liability May Also Be at Fault

Marketing, manufacturing or product design may also be held legally responsible for SJS. In some jurisdictions, it is possible to hold a drug manufacturer liable for a failure to warn users of SJS risk.

When to Consult with an Attorney

If you were injured or a loved one suffered a wrongful death due to SJS, the experienced attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell can examine the facts of your situation and evaluate whether you may have a viable claim. 

To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at 1-800-590-4116.