J&J Loses 3rd Duragesic/Fentanyl Patch Death Case; $16.5 Mil. Verdict

Last Updated Dec 7, 2008 10:29 PM EST

Johnson & Johnson units Janssen and ALZA have lost a third Duragesic patch death case. A jury in Chicago found J&J liable in the death of a Cicero, Ill., woman who had used a Duragesic to reduce the almost constant pain she experienced as a result of a neurological condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy. The woman's family argued that the patch allowed the painkiller fentanyl to leak in amounts large enough to kill patients using it. J&J must pay $16.5 million in damages.
They knew this patch was dangerous and defective but they continued to sell it and make money, and that's the only reason Janice DiCosolo is dead," says attorney Jim Orr of Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei in Dallas, counsel for the DiCosolo family. "They even knew there was a safer design, one that would prevent the fentanyl from leaking, but they chose not to use it," added Orr's partner Michael Heygood, who also represented the DiCosolo family at trial.
The patch was recalled in 2004.
"The drugstore that sold this patch sent Mr. DiCosolo a letter days after his wife's death to tell him about the recall," says attorney John Cushing of The Law Offices of John Cushing in Chicago, who also represented the DiCosolo family.
The trial took three weeks. Weirdly, testimony at trial indicated that the patch used by DiCosolo was not defective:
An independent expert and company expert inspected the patch that DiCosolo used and concluded there was no defect, [Greg Panico, a spokesman for Janssen and ALZA, ] said. The companies believe DiCosolo's cause of death was polypharmacy, "a mix of multiple and potentially incompatible medications," he said.
This is the third trial loss for the company on Duragesic:
A Sanford, Fla., jury last month awarded $13.3 million to the family of Susan Hodgemire, 34, who died after undergoing back surgery and using the Duragesic patch. In June 2007 a federal jury awarded $5.5 million to the father of a 28-year-old man who died in 2003 while wearing the patch.
Fentanyl patches have had a bunch of recalls:
Some patches containing fentanyl were recalled in February 2008 because of a flaw that could cause them to leak. Those patches were sold in the United States by Actavis South Atlantic LLC and had both that name and the company's former name, Abrika Pharmaceuticals Inc., on the packaging.

Also in February, PriCara, another Johnson & Johnson division announced a recall of fentanyl patches manufactured by ALZA Corp.

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