updated 12/30/2004 11:19:09 AM ET 2004-12-30T16:19:09

The parents of a 7-year-old girl Tuesday sued the makers of Children’s Motrin and several other companies that distribute it, claiming their daughter lost her eyesight and suffered other severe side effects after taking the medication.

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The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Sabrina Brierton Johnson of Los Angeles, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against health care giant Johnson & Johnson, subsidiary McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, and several other firms, including retailers Ralphs Grocery and Albertsons Inc.’s Sav-On pharmacies.

Kenneth and Joan Brierton Johnson accuse the defendants of negligence, breach of warranty and of concealing from consumers and doctors potential health risks of taking the flu and pain medication, specifically the risk of developing two disorders — Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis — which are typically caused by an adverse reaction to a drug or virus.

Contracted Stevens-Johnson Syndrome
Sabrina took Children’s Motrin drops Sept. 8, 2003, after she came home from school with a fever. The girl had no known drug allergies, according to the suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The next morning, she woke up with a high fever and other symptoms, including a pink coloration in her eyes and sores in her mouth. She was hospitalized; a day later she was blind in both eyes.

Doctors later concluded Sabrina had contracted Stevens-Johnson Syndrome from taking Children’s Motrin, according to the lawsuit. Since then, she has had multiple eye surgeries.

“In the name of children everywhere, our family wants Children’s Motrin taken off the market until it carries a warning label about the risk of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and describes its symptoms,” the girl’s mother said in a statement.

Bonnie Jacobs, a spokeswoman for Fort Washington, Pa.-based McNeil, which manufactures Children’s Motrin, said McNeil and Johnson & Johnson were aware of a report that a 7-year-old girl allegedly developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome after taking the medication.

“As the makers of Children’s Motrin products, we are deeply concerned by all matters relating to our products and we are investigating the situation,” Jacobs said.

She declined to discuss the case further.

Representatives of Sav-On and pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Corp., also a defendant, declined to comment. Messages left with Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health and Kroger Co.’s Ralphs chain were not immediately returned.

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