Posted on Thu, Mar. 20, 2003

Parents of stricken girl sue makers of Children's Motrin


By Linda Goldston

Mercury News

The parents of a 9-year-old Saratoga girl have sued the makers of Children's Motrin, claiming the flu and pain medication caused the extreme allergic reaction that left their daughter, Kaitlyn Langstaff, unable to see, speak or eat.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose also alleges that the manufacturer of the drug failed to adequately test it for over-the-counter use with children and failed to warn the public of potentially fatal reactions to Children's Motrin.

``They knew it could cause this terrible toxic epidermal necrolysis and didn't tell the FDA, didn't tell the public and fraudulently put it on the market as safe,'' said San Francisco attorney Mary Alexander, one of the lawyers representing Kaitlyn's parents, Kerry and Bradshaw Langstaff.

Named in the suit are Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary, McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals. Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

Kaitlyn's determination to remain a normal child despite her debilitating disease has made her something of a local celebrity. After the Mercury News published her story and a poem she wrote, a rock promoter arranged for her poem to be set to music, recorded on a CD and performed at a benefit concert in her honor on March 1.

The lawsuit, which was filed Friday just over 11 months after Kaitlyn became ill, does not specify the amount of damages being sought but does request a jury trial.

``The manufacturer doesn't warn about it, although there is a clear association in the medical literature between Stevens Johnson Syndrome and TENS and ibuprofen, the generic form of Children's Motrin,'' said James C. Barber, a Dallas attorney who is also representing the Langstaffs. ``They clearly have known about the problem.''

Kerry Langstaff, who has spoken extensively about Kaitlyn's struggles, said the family had been advised by their attorneys ``not to comment at this time.''

According to the suit, Kaitlyn had no known allergies when she was given Children's Motrin for fever and sore throat by her parents on April 6.

``The next day she broke out in a rash,'' the suit states. ``She continued to take the drug every 4-6 hours when she sought care at Fresno's Children's Hospital where she was diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis.''

On the third or fourth night in the pediatric intensive care unit in Fresno, ``a physician at the hospital recommended discontinuation of the drug,'' according to the suit. Kaitlyn was then transferred to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles and later to Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford and then Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Kaitlyn, who turned 9 on Feb. 25, was hospitalized for 110 days and nearly died several times.

``During her hospitalization, she was in excruciating pain caused by her skin sloughing off her body, comparable to second degree burns,'' the suit says, ``but since they were not full thickness burns, all nerve endings were exposed, leaving her in terrible pain . . . Because of the loss of her skin and blood, she suffered secondary infections and massive bleeding, requiring multiple blood transfusions; all of which required her to be heavily sedated and restrained to her bed.''

The condition caused massive scarring in Kaitlyn's lungs and airway, requiring that a tube be inserted in her throat so she can breathe. She has a feeding tube in her stomach and needs a wheelchair to get around. She is blind and needs an electronic larynx to speak.

``She will require multiple additional surgeries in the future, and permanent and possibly full-time medical and custodial care for her catastrophic injuries,'' the suit states.

After Kaitlyn's story was published in the Mercury News last year, hundreds of people stepped forward to help, offering everything from money to repairs for the family's leaky roof. Both parents were laid off from their high-tech marketing jobs the summer before Kaitlyn became ill and have been unable to find new ones.