Woman blames son's amputations on anti-psychotic drug

Kelly Holleran Aug. 18, 2010, 8:39am

A Jefferson County woman blames the makers of an anti-psychotic drug for causing her 13-year-old son to lose the lower portion of his leg.

Jennifer Lee Johnson filed a lawsuit Aug. 11 in Jefferson County District Court against Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Memorial Hermann Baptist Beaumont Hospital, Memorial Hermann Hospital System, Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital, Dr. Victor Ho, Dr. Michelle Barratt, Dr. Jeff Thompson, Dr. Unnati Doshi, Dr. Bridget Dingle, Sherry Williams, Dr. Julie Hayes, Dr. Judy Lee, Dr. David Podeszwa, Dr. Diana Zepeda-Orozco and Dr. Alisa Gotte.

Johnson claims doctors gave her son, Jarrell Lee, a prescription for the anti-psychotic medicine Invega on July 15, 2008.

According to the complaint, shortly after Lee began taking the medicine he began experiencing body aches, headaches, nausea and dizziness. His complaints were all symptoms of a severe muscle condition that results in the rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle called rhabdomyolysis, the suit states.

Despite the signs of rhabdomyloysis, doctors undertreated Lee, causing him to develop compartment syndrome -- a syndrome marked by the compression of nerves, blood vessels and muscle in a closed space, the suit states.

When Lee couldn't walk properly, Drs. Thompson and Ho at Memorial Hermann Baptist Beaumont Hospital and Williams still sent him home, the complaint says.

Upon his release, Lee also displayed significant abnormal lab values and complained of neurological problems, Johnson claims.

On Aug. 20, 2008, Lee came under the care of Drs. Doshi, Dingle and Barnett at Hermann Memorial Children's Hospital, who still failed to provide him with adequate treatment by failing to diagnose him with rhabdomyolysis, according to the complaint. Doctors again discharged him before he could regain his medical stability, the suit states.

From Sept. 1 through Sept. 6, 2008, Drs. Lee, Hayes, Zepeda-Orozco and Gotta attempted to care for Lee, but failed to recognize that he had gained weight and that his body was overloaded with fluid, failed to appropriately treat the rhabdomyolysis with urine alkalinization, failed to follow a neurologist's recommendation that Lee immediately be checked for compartment syndrome and failed to measure compartment pressures, the complaint says.

As a result of the improperly treated rhabdomyolysis, Lee had to get the portion of his leg below his knee amputated, Johnson claims.

Johnson says her son never would have lost a portion of his leg had he not taken the medication Invega, which she blames for leading to Lee's rhabdomyolysis and compartment syndrome.

Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals should have known of the drug's potential to cause dangerous side effects, but failed to include adequate warnings, failed to test it before putting it on the market and failed to inform the health care industry of the drug's risks, according to the complaint.

In her complaint, Johnson alleges medical negligence against the defending hospital and doctors. She says Ortho-McNeil-Janssen is guilty of negligence, misrepresentation and suppression, breach of warranty and actual and constructive fraud.

Johnson seeks unspecified punitive, compensatory and exemplary damages, attorneys' fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: D187-529.

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