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More Harm Than Good – Dilantin SJS

— July 10, 2015



Another drug has hit the lawsuit trail for horrific side effects and manufacturer failure to warn. I just published a piece on Zithromax and SJS and now, Dilantin (generic Phenytoin) is on the hook for the same issue – causing Stevens Johnson Syndrome. It’s yet one more case of a drug potentially doing more harm than good.

Dilantin is a popular seizure medication manufactured by Pfizer. Mylan Pharmaceuticals and Baxter Healthcare produce the generic version. All three companies have been sued in state and federal courts. A recent count puts the total at about 100 suits. While there’s no doubt that many patients find Dilantin manages their conditions, many have found that success comes at a high price.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a cruel condition. Patients suffer traumatizing burns & rashes, blisters & sores, loss of skin and some have died. The psychological and emotional trauma is also severe. Unfortunately, so is the financial part of the equation. SJS treatment typically requires long and extremely expensive hospital stays.

While Dilantin got its FDA stamp of approval in 2001, there were problems reported right out of the gate. Many adverse effect reports detailing SJS were filed with the FDA, the WHO and Health Canada. Yet, manufacturers downplayed the risks of using the product.

The risks are high, too. SJS, as bad as it is, is the mild form of reaction to Dilantin. If the burns and rashes spread to over 30% of total skin surface, the diagnosis is changed to Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). At this point in the condition, the outermost layer of skin begins to die and fall off in large patches. This is also when the chance of death jumps from 5-15% with SJS to 30-40% with TEN.

As I did in the Zithromax post, I’m listing the symptoms of SJS and TEN:

  • Flu-like symptoms (such as fever, sore throat, cough, burning eyes)
  • Red or purple skin rash
  • Hives
  • Blisters on the skin and mucous membranes (especially in the mouth, nose, and eyes)
  • Facial swelling
  • Tongue swelling
  • Skin pain
  • Skin shedding (also known as sloughing)

Sadly, even if patients survive SJS or TEN, the struggle is often not over. Many suffer life-long complications, such as:

  • Secondary skin infection (cellulitis)
  • Sepsis (blood infection)
  • Eye problems that can lead to blindness
  • Internal organ damage
  • Permanent skin damage

If you or a loved one uses Dilantin or Phenytoin, please seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the symptoms listed above.


 Dilantin SJS: A Danger to Seizure Patients

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