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What Risks of Ibuprofen Should Have Been Disclosed?


On May 20, 2011, a jury ruled that Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Consumer Products, the producer of Motrin, must pay damages of $10 million to the family of a 13-year-old who suffered severe injuries resulting from Stevens Johnson Syndrome after taking Children’s Motrin.

After taking Children’s Motrin to treat a fever when she was three and a half years old, Brianna Maya was left blind in one eye and burns covered 84 percent of her body.  The jury found McNeil negligent in failing to warn of the serious risks associated with Children’s Motrin and that the failure to warn was a “factual cause” of Maya’s injuries.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a serious skin disease in which a person’s mucous membranes react violently to a medication.  This complication is almost always a medical emergency and develops rapidly causing severe and debilitating injuries. The onset of the disease is usually marked by flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash and blistering which causes the top layer of the skin to shed.

The lesson that should be learned? The duty of pharmaceutical companies to clearly warn consumers of potential risks.

Even where there is a small chance for the occurrence of these risks, consumers still have the right to know and pharmaceutical companies have the clear duty to set forth warnings in a way consumers can understand.  A portion of the population may have an adverse reaction to Motrin and other products containing ibuprofen.  Even though no changes are being made to those products, consumers should still be made aware of these risks.

Johnson & Johnson has begun to include warnings that that ibuprofen, Motrin’s active ingredient, could trigger “a severe allergic reaction.” Consumers are also urging the FDA to require labels warning of the risk of Steven Johnsons Syndrome associated with other drugs containing ibuprofen.

Keeping the public informed about the potential risks associated with drugs is a part of the duty owed by those who wish to profit from the sale of drugs and is the best way to prevent injury to otherwise unsuspecting consumers.

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