Doug / 05-04-2011 / Wrongful Death

Companies Appeal $16 Million Duragesic Fentanyl Patch Wrongful Death Lawsuit

According to PR News Wire, the First District of the Illinois Court of Appeals has received an appeal of a $16.56 million judgment entered more than two years ago against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. and ALZA Corp. The appeal comes from a 2008 jury verdict in Cook County District Court. The jury found the companies liable in the death of a 38-year-old wife and mother of three.

Janice DiCosolo died in 2004 while using a Duragesic fentanyl patch prescribed to her by a doctor to reduce pain from the neurological condition reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Duragesic patches contain a gel form of the pain medication fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent narcotic analgesic that is used as a pain reliever as well as anesthetic in combination with a benzodiazepine. The drug is about 100 times more potent than morphine.

According to the documents, the family of DiCosolo argued that well before issuing the recall, the defendants were aware of a history of manufacturing defects which allow lethal amounts of fentanyl to leak into a patient’s bloodstream. Janssen and ALZA recalled millions of fentanyl patches, including the type used by DiCosolo. A subsequent federal government investigation found numerous deficiencies in manufacturing practices and quality control assurance policies and procedures. The patch has since been redesigned to prevent leakage of lethal dosage amounts.

Dr. Lawrence Cogan, the Cook County Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy on DiCosolo, found excessive amounts of fentanyl in the victim’s body that was the official cause of her death. Toxicology reports showed her bloodstream had 15 times more fentanyl than a properly functioning Duragesic fentanyl patch was intended to provide. The victim’s family received a recall notice from their pharmacy days after her death.

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