Zyloprim (allopurinol) and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS)

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SJS/TEN is a Rare Side Effect Linked to Zyloprim
SJS/TEN is a Rare Side Effect Linked to Zyloprim

SJS/TEN is a Rare but Life-Threatening Side Effect Linked to Zyloprim

The drug injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP are reviewing potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who suffered Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) or toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) after taking Zyloprim (allopurinol). Zyloprim is a medication manufactured by Prometheus Laboratories; it is used to reduce levels of uric acid in the body, and is prescribed to patients suffering from gout and kidney stones.

A rare but serious side effect associated with the use of Zyloprim is SJS, a severe reaction that affects the skin and mucous membranes. SJS and TEN (the more advanced version of the disease) causes a painful, blistering rash that ultimately causes the skin to shed and die. SJS is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Patient prognosis improves if SJS is identified early on, so being aware of possible symptoms can be helpful.

Different factors can cause SJS, but most of the time it is the result of a drug reaction. Some medications are associated with SJS and TEN more frequently than others. According to Mayo Clinic, anti-gout medications such as allopurinol (the generic name for Zyloprim) are among the drugs that can cause SJS. Other drugs that can trigger SJS include pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, antibiotics, anti-seizure medications and radiation therapy.

Research Suggests Zyloprim is Leading Cause of SJS

Zyloprim is among the more common triggers of SJS/TEN, according to research findings. Earlier this year, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine identified drugs and patient risk factors that were most associated with SJS/TEN. The study evaluated patients admitted to Vancouver General Hospital for SJS/TEN from 2001 to 2011. Researchers found that allopurinol was the single most common drug triggering SJS. In fact, Zyloprim caused 20 percent of cases. Researchers found that the risk of SJS was also correlated to race, noting that nearly half of all Zyloprim SJS reactions occurred in Chinese patients even though they only comprised 23 percent of the study cohort.

Study author Jan P. Dutz, MD, said that high mortality associated with SJS may stem from “unawareness of the early signs and symptoms of SJS and TEN, the common drug triggers that cause it, and what investigations (HLA typing in Asians) can be done to prevent it.”

In March 2013, a study published in Arthritis Care & Research found that severe cutaneous adverse reactions (SCARs) with allopurinol were rare but often fatal. Researchers found that “The risk of SCARs was 10 times as high in allopurinol initiators as compared to allopurinol nonusers.”

In 2008, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published a study titled “Allopurinol is the most common cause of Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis in Europe and Israel.” Researchers conducted a multinational case-control study comparing 379 patients with SJS/TEN to 1505 matched hospitalized control subjects. The authors found that allopurinol was the drug most often linked with SJS or TEN. “Results of this multinational study (EuroSCAR) revealed that allopurinol is the drug most commonly associated with SJS or TEN. The incidence of allopurinol-associated SJS or TEN has increased possibly because of increased use and dosages of this drug.” the authors wrote.

What are the Symptoms of SJS?

According to Mayo Clinic, early symptoms of SJS can resemble the flu. Several days before the blistering rash appears, patients may experience a fever, sore throat and mouth, fatigue, cough, and burning eyes. Identifying SJS in the early stages can improve the odds of patients surviving a Zyloprim SJS reaction.

Once the condition progresses, symptoms include swelling of the face and tongue, hives, skin pain, a red or purple rash, blisters on the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, eyes and genitals and shedding of the skin. SJS is considered an emergency that requires immediate medical attention. If SJS affects over 30 percent of the body, it is referred to as TEN.    

Complications from SJS/TEN include skin infection which can lead to blood infection (sepsis), a life-threatening condition where bacteria enters the bloodstream leading to shock and organ failure. SJS can also affect the eyes, with complications ranging from mild irritation to blindness due to scarring. While organ damage is an uncommon complication, it is possible that inflammation from SJS can affect the lungs, heart, kidneys or liver. Additionally, patients who have had SJS may suffer permanent skin damage.

Zyloprim SJS Lawsuits

According to Parker Waichman lawyers, Zyloprim lawsuits allege that drug makers failed to adequately warn patients and their physicians about the risk of SJS/TEN associated with Zyloprim. Suits are filed on behalf of patients who suffered these severe skin reactions, allegedly due to using Zyloprim. If you or someone you know has questions about filing a Zyloprim SJS lawsuit, contact Parker Waichman today by filling out our online form, or calling 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).