A jury ruled that two Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries that make Duragesic, a painkilling skin patch, must pay nearly $16.6 million to the family of a woman who died from a drug overdose while using the defective pharmaceutical product.
According to this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Janice DiCosolo, a 38-year-old mother of three, died in 2004 while using a patch that her doctor prescribed to reduce pain caused by a neurological condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
An Illinois Circuit Court ruled that DiCosolo died because the patch delivered a fatal dose of its main ingredient, the powerful narcotic pain reliever, fentanyl.
The lawsuit claimed that Janssen Pharmaceutical Inc. and ALZA Corp. knew about problems with the Duragesic patch. It allowed it to leak fentanyl in doses large enough to kill patients.
An attorney for DiCosolo's family said, "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.”
The companies are considering options for an appeal.
An independent expert and company expert inspected the patch that DiCosolo used and concluded there was no defect. The companies believe DiCosolo's cause of death was "a mix of multiple and potentially incompatible medications.”
Duragesic is a prescription-only product that is intended for cancer patients and others with chronic pain and is designed to dispense the medicine slowly through the skin. The patches were first approved under the brand name Duragesic in 1990. A generic version hit the market in 2005.