Product liability lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm affirm that an Oklahoma court recently upheld a $15 million jury verdict in favor of a woman seriously injured by Allergan Inc.’s Botox injections. The plaintiff successfully claimed that injections of Allergan’s Botox caused her to develop botulism poisoning.
The plaintiff, obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Sharla Helton, began receiving Botox injections in 2004, and continued the treatment without incident until 2006. Following an injection in July 2006, however, she started experiencing an array of unusual side effects, such as muscle and joint pain that eventually became so debilitating she was forced to resign as the medical director of an Oklahoma woman’s hospital.
The joint and muscle pain was accompanied by debilitating breathing problems and double vision, and she was ultimately diagnosed with botulism poisoning. Botulism is a serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin, Clostridium botulinum, which can enter the body through food, a wound, or from accidental overdoses.
As can be denoted by its name, Botox treatments use purified botulinum toxin’s paralyzing effects to reduce facial wrinkles. The toxin prevents contraction of facial muscles beneath the skin and is also used for certain medical conditions such as eyelid spasms and severe underarm sweating.
In 2009, Helton sued Allergan for negligence and product liability, contending that its product labels were inadequate. She also claims that the company fraudulently encouraged physicians to use its Botox product “off label,” in doses not approved by the FDA.
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The jury trial between Helton and Allergan lasted just over two weeks, during which time her treating physician, Dr. Brent Beson, testified that it was indeed the Botox injection that caused her illness. After the jury came back with a $15 million decision for Helton, Allergan attempted to claim the court erred by allowing Helton’s anesthesiologist husband and colleagues to testify. Helton’s husband and her fellow physicians asserted their own observations and opinions on her condition and its cause.
Allergan claimed that none of these witnesses could qualify as experts, particularly in matters of toxicology, and that though many were doctors none had ever treated a patient with botulism. The appeals panel, however, rejected Allergan’s assertions, stating that the witnesses appropriately relayed their exact relationship with Helton and never tried to conceal any facts of the matter, and all based their testimony on their general knowledge of medicine, never claiming to be experts in toxicology.
Throughout trial Allergan tried to argue that Helton was actually suffering from somatoform disorder, which is a psychiatric illness manifesting as physical pain. The court denied Allergan’s attempts to call expert testimony on this theory. In its appeal Allergan argued that Helton failed to establish that its Botox product was the actual cause of her injuries, however, the panel rejected the motion.
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A similar case recently ended badly for Allergan after a jury in Virginia ordered it to pay $212 million to a man who suffered brain damage from Botox injections. The plaintiff, Douglas Ray, received the injections to treat hand tremors and cramps in 2007. He states in his suit that he was unaware, due to inadequate warning labels, that Botox could cause autoimmune reactions and potentially cause brain damage.
After receiving injections the Botox reportedly migrated outside Ray’s hand and caused severe side effects – including botulism and an autoimmune reaction. Ray experienced frequent confusion and disorientation and he is now largely unable to care for himself. He claimed that Allergan failed to inform physicians and patients of these risks to avoid losing Botox sales.
Botox generated nearly $1.5 billion in sales in 2010, and is by far Allergan’s top-seller. It was approved by the FDA to treat muscle stiffness in the fingers, hands, arms and spasms of the upper limbs and was recently approved to treat migraine headaches.
Botox lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm encourage anyone who suffered severe, debilitating side effects from Botox injections or any other toxic drug to contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible. We provide legal consultations free of charge to potential clients in all 50 states.