Tardive dyskinesia is a serious movement disorder causing sudden involuntary movements in the mouth, throat, and face. Tardive dyskinesia is usually caused by prolonged use of certain prescription drugs commonly used in the treatment of mental health disorders. Initial efforts to sue the manufacturers of the drugs that caused dyskinesia (e.g., Reglan) for product liability were largely unsuccessful. However, individuals who develop tardive dyskinesia from prescription psychotropic drugs can potentially sue the prescribing doctors for medical malpractice.About Tardive Dyskinesia
Tardive dyskinesia is a very serious facial and oral movement disorder resulting from neurologic damage. People with tardive dyskinesia are not able to control the movement of muscles in their face, mouth, neck and connected areas. The dyskinesia causes sudden, involuntary movements of these facial and oral muscles. These involuntary jerking and grimacing movement can be very severe and disabling, making it difficult to chew, drink and swallow. They also cause significant disfigurement.
The involuntary movements of tardive dyskinesia are triggered by abnormalities inside the person's brain. The brain normally controls and coordinate all of the muscles in the body with electrical signals transmitted across nerve pathways. When someone has tardive dyskinesia these signals from the brain to the facial and oral muscle are distorted resulting in the involuntary movements.Antipsychotic Medications Cause Tardive Dyskinesia
Tardive dyskinesia is a not a disorder that just occurs on its own from natural events or injury. Rather, tardive dyskinesia is caused by prolonged use of certain prescription drugs that are used in the treatment of mental health conditions such as bi-polar and schizophrenia. These medications are known as antipsychotics or psychotropic drugs.
Use of antipsychotic medications for a long period of time causes neurologic abnormalities to develop in certain people. These abnormalities inside the brain are what trigger tardive dyskinesia. It usually takes a year or more of continued use of a medication to develop dyskinesia but the time frame varies depending on the person and the dosage. Anyone using psychotropic medication for a long time can develop tardive dyskinesia, but there are certain groups that are at significantly higher risk. Elder patients, females and people with a history of diabetes are more likely to develop tardive dyskinesia from mental health medications.Tardive Dyskinesia Lawsuits for Medical Malpractice
When the link between certain mental health drugs and tardive dyskinesia was first documented, it prompted the FDA to require a black-box warning label on certain drugs. This invariably led to a wave of product liability lawsuits against drug manufacturers. For the most part these product liability lawsuits against the drug manufacturers have not been successful and few law firms are taking these cases at this point.
This does not mean, however, that individuals who develop tardive dyskinesia from extended use of prescription medications have no legal recourse. Doctors who prescribe medications known to cause tardive dyskinesia have an obligation to use appropriate care in administering those drugs and then carefully monitoring the patient's response to those drugs. Doctors, mental health facilities, and nursing homes can be sued for medical malpractice in connection with tardive dyskinesia. Malpractice theories in these cases often involve allegations that doctors or facilities prescribed the antipsychotic drugs unnecessarily, left patients on the medications for too long, and/or failed to properly monitor progress and response to the medications.Verdicts & Settlements
Below are verdicts and reported settlements from medical malpractice cases by plaintiff's who developed tardive dyskinesia from prescription drugs.
- Axe v Spring Meadows at Lansdale (Pennsylvania 2018) $215,000: 73-year-old man is resident at the Spring Meadows nursing home in Montgomery County, PA. He is given heavy doses of psychiatric drugs for long period of time to control his schizophrenia and the prolonged use of the medications cause him to develop dyskinesia. The dyskinesia leaves him unable to properly control his mouth and throat muscles and he cokes and dies while eating breakfast in the dining hall. His estate sues the nursing home for negligence in connection with overuse of the medication and for failing to properly monitor and assist with eating. Case settles out of court for $215,000.
- Plaintiff v Psychiatrist (New York 2017) $1.4 million: plaintiff goes to defendant psychiatrist for treatment of anxiety and depression. Defendant chooses to put her on antipsychotic medication Perphenazine, which is an older drug normally used to treat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. After taking the Perphenazine for over 2 years, plaintiff eventually develops tardive dyskinesia which is a well-known side effect of the medication. She sues defendant for medical malpractice claiming that he was negligent in prescribing Perphenazine in the first place and then compounded that mistake by failing to properly monitor her response to the drug. Plaintiff's Life Care Plan estimated the cost of her injury at $3,000,000 but the case eventually settled for $1.4 million.
- Soref v Agresti (Florida 2017) $569,000: female plaintiff in her mid-20s with a history of drug abuse enters a treatment and rehab facility. The medical director at the rehab facility diagnoses her with bi-polar disorder and puts her on a course of numerous psychotropic drugs for a period of 2 years. The prolonged use of the drugs causes her to develop tardive dyskinesia. She sues the medical director for malpractice alleging that he misdiagnosed her as bi-polar, prescribed excessive doses of psychotropic medications, and failed to monitor her or refer her to a more qualified doctor. Case goes to trial and a jury in Miami awards $569,000.
- Fortenberry v Johnson & Johnson (Mississippi 2014) $1.9 million: this is one of the handful of successful product liability lawsuits against a drug manufacturer relating to tardive dyskinesia. Plaintiff is this case is put on the drug Risperdal for treatment of serious "psychotic manifestations." He is kept on a heavy dose of the drug for a prolonged time period and it causes him to develop tardive dyskinesia and he eventually chokes and dies. He sues the drug manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, for product liability. Case goes to trial and jury awards $1.9 million.
- Plaintiff v Defendant Therapist (Massachusetts 2014) $700,000: defendant mental health therapist puts female plaintiff on a number of prescription anti-psychotic medications (including Risperdal) for treatment of her anxiety and depression. After prolonged use of the drugs plaintiff develops severe tardive dyskinesia which requires neurosurgery to correct. She sues therapist for negligently prescribing the medications without knowledge of the risk of developing tardive dyskinesia and then failing to monitor and evaluate her response to the drugs. Parties agree to confidential settlement for $700,000.
- Angel v Segal (Illinois 2014) $1.5 million: defendant doctor prescribes Zyprexa to 10-year-old boy for off label use in treatment of his autism. After prolonged use boy develops severe facial tics and tongue movements but doctor fails to initial diagnose tardive dyskinesia and does not discontinue the medication. Symptoms worsen and boy is eventually diagnosed with tardive dyskinesia. Doctor is sued for negligently prescribing, misdiagnosis, and negligent monitoring. Jury in Chicago awards $1.5 million.
If you have been diagnosed with tardive dyskinesia as a result of taking prescription drugs for mental health conditions, autism or other disorders, you may have a claim against your prescribing doctor for medical malpractice. Call the malpractice lawyers at Miller & Zois at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.