A North Hollywood teenager and her father are warning others about the risks of the drug lamictal after the young student developed Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and spent two weeks in a burn unit ICU.
Ashley Silverman, 14, almost lost her life as her skin blistered, bubbled, and fell off as a result of a severe reaction to the medication prescribed to her by her psychiatrist at a clinic that works with the Los Angeles Unified School District. SJS is a potentially deadly and rare disorder of the skin and mucous membranes usually in reaction to medication or infection.
Ashley, a freshman at North Hollywood High School, told FOX 11 that she had been struggling with mood swings, as many young adults do.
“I thought it was a teenager kind of thing, I didn’t know you needed meds for it, I thought everyone went through the same thing,” she said.
At the recommendation of a LAUSD counselor, Ashley started seeing a therapist at a clinic in North Hills that has a memorandum of understanding with LAUSD.
“The psychiatrist told me that I have abnormal mood swings so he prescribed (lamictal) to me to stabilize it,” she said.
Lamictal is used to treat seizures, epilepsy, and bipolar disorder in people ages 16 and above, none of which Ashley had been diagnosed with. It comes with a Food and Drug Administration black box warning of serious rashes requiring hospitalization including risk of Stevens Johnson Syndrome.
Ashley’s dad, David, told FOX 11 he didn’t do much research on the drug but the psychiatrist assured him it was safe.
“The only thing I was told is that your daughter might get a little red rash on her cheeks, like a minor sun burn,” he said. “That’s all I was told, there was no mention of Stevens Johnson, I had never heard of it before.”
Two weeks after taking the recommended dose of lamictal, Ashley began feeling sick and a red rash appeared on her face.
“I woke up with a headache one morning, then the next day I had a fever that wouldn’t go down for two days,” she said. “One night she had a 104 temperature, I thought she had the flu,” David said.
After a failed visit to the ER, Ashley was transferred to Children's Hospital LA when her skin began to have a severe reaction.
“At first it was just spots on my face, then they got down my neck, then my chest, and then it started to bubble,” she said. “I felt burning a lot and I couldn’t move and I couldn’t see, I thought I was gonna die.”
Ashley was immediately transferred to the burn unit at the LA County/USC Medical Center, and placed in intensive care where she was unable to breathe and eat on her own.
“The onus of responsibility lies with the physician, they’re the expert that parents are coming to,” he said. And that physician should know that and should relay that information," Dr. Peter Grossman, the medical director of the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills said.
The psychiatrist who prescribed Ashley the medication visited her in the hospital, telling her father he takes 'full responsibility' for the mistake.
“Parents better be very careful what they give their kids, and they’d better research it thoroughly,” David warned others. “I didn’t do that, I took the advice of a professional.”