Plaintiff claims Duragesic patch killed her husband

By Steve Gonzalez | Oct 24, 2007

Leigh Ann Cruse filed a product liability suit against Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceutical and Alza Corporation, seeking damages in excess of $250,000 under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act alleging her husband Cliff was killed by a defective Duragesic patch.

The suit filed in Madison County Circuit Court Oct. 17 was the 900th civil suit filed in the "L" division this year.

Last year on that date 934 cases had been filed in the court's Law Division.

Duragesic is a transdermal patch available only by prescription that contains a gel form of fentanyl, an opioid-based pain medication 100 times stronger than morphine.

Once the patch is applied directly to the skin, it is designed to deliver fentanyl at a regulated rate for up to 72 hours.

The patch is designed, manufactured, distributed and sold by Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries, Janssen and Alza.

According to Cruse, her husband was prescribed the patch by co-defendant Dr. Syed Ali of Granite City on Nov. 4, 2004, after Cliff complained about chronic low back pain. He was prescribed Duragesic 75 mcg every 72 hours.

Cruse alleges Dr. Ali prescribed Cliff the same patch every 30 days until his death on April 13, 2006.

According to the complaint, on April 12, while wearing the patch on his left buttock, Cliff took a nap around 1 p.m.

Cruse claims she checked on him around 5:30 p.m. and believed him to be asleep and went on about her business.

She claims their son Dustin went to wake Cliff up around midnight on April 13, 2006, and was unable to do so. Cliff was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m.

According to the complaint, toxicology results revealed the level of fentanyl to be 16.7 nanograms/ml, a lethal dose, leading to Cliff's cause of death to be determined as a fentanyl overdose.

Cruse claims Cliff did not know, and could not have known, that prior to his death the defendants were aware and had knowledge that certain Duragesic patches were defective and had the propensity to cause severe injury, including death.

She claims the patch was in a defective condition and unreasonably dangerous because it:

  • Delivered a lethal dose of fentanyl into Cliff's skin and circulatory system causing him to die;

  • Released narcotic medication into Cliff's skin at a dangerous rate and faster than its advertised rate of 75 mcg per hour;

  • Failed to deliver fentanyl from the drug reservoirs at the declared constant amount per unit of time;

  • Leaked from the protective liner and from the functional layers;

  • Contained a manufacturing defect making it more dangerous than the ordinary consumer would expect;

  • Failed to provide adequate warnings of the danger involved in the administration of an opioid analgesic; and

  • Failed to warn of the symptoms of overdose and to prescribe the necessary steps to be taken if an overdose occurs.

    Cruse also claims Dr. Ali was negligent in aggressively prescribing the patch for a history of low back pain when medical records show Cliff had not been treated by any other modes other than medication management.

    She also claims Dr. Ali failed to monitor Cliff while he was taking the patch and failed to order tests to ascertain whether continuing the medication was appropriate.

    Cruse claims that as a result of Cliff's death, she and her children have suffered great losses of a personal and pecuniary nature, including the loss of money, benefits, goods and services Cliff provided.

    She also claims Cliff's next of kin have lost his companionship, instruction, moral training, superintendence of education and society.

    Cruse is represented by Amy Collignon Gunn of Simon Passanante in St. Louis.

    The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron

    07 L 900

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