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US jury: Botox-maker Allergan not responsible for 7-year-old Texas girl's death

Tue, 03/02/2010 - 6:17pm
The Associated Press

A jury determined Tuesday that Botox-maker Allergan was not responsible for the death of a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who died after receiving Botox injections.

Kristen Spears of Amarillo, Texas, died of respiratory failure and pneumonia in November 2007. Her mother, Dee, sued Irvine-based Allergan Inc. for $60 million, alleging an overdose weakened muscles that controlled her daughter's breathing.

The jury decided by a 10-2 vote that Kristen's fatal pneumonia and respiratory failure were not caused by Botox, The Orange Country Register reported.

Kristen Spears, who was born with cerebral palsy, received Botox injections over a 17-month period to relax muscle spasms in her legs.

While Botox is commonly used for cosmetic purposes to smooth wrinkles and frown lines, some doctors use the botulin-based drug at higher doses to treat muscle spasms in cerebral palsy patients.

Allergan's lead attorney, Vaughn Crawford, told the panel in his closing argument that Kristen's death was the "natural progression of the disease in severely challenged children."

Juror David Reyes told the Orange County Register that he concluded Botox couldn't be singled out as a substantial reason for Kristen's death.

"So many other things could be faulted in her death," he said.

The jurors did not fault Allergan for limiting the release of information about Botox's risks, although the plaintiff had argued that the company risked patients' lives by not revealing it considers Botox injections over 8 units per kilogram of body weight to be overdoses.

Allergan paid for Kristen's doctor to be trained to inject approximately double that amount, said Spears' attorney Ray Chester. Such injections are recommended by many cerebral palsy specialists.

In a statement, Allergan said it was a "very sad and unfortunate situation, and our hearts go out to Dee Spears for the loss of her daughter, Kristen." However, the company said the jury's conclusion supports the evidence that Botox played no role in the girl's death.

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