In the United States alone, medication errors are the third leading cause of death, as per a study conducted recently at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. For a Georgia woman who was burned from the inside-out after taking a medication that was prescribed to her, the results of the study hit tragically close to home.
Khaliah Shaw, 26, was hospitalized for three weeks as the skin on her face, arms, legs, stomach and back began to peel away from her body. She was put in a medically-induced coma during her hospital stay. Now a survivor, Shaw is three years into her painful recovery, with many more years to go. The effects of the medication error are still physically visible on Shaw, as it caused her to suffer third-degree burns and lose her fingernails, sweat glands, and hair. She is also currently battling vision loss.
In an interview with 11Alive News in Atlanta, Shaw said,
"This did not have to happen. This was not just some sort of fluke, in my opinion. This happened as a [direct] result of somebody’s error.”
The pill behind this tragic medication error is Lamictal, an anticonvulsant drug used to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and in some instances, clinical depression. The pill’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is being sued by Shaw and other victims for failing to inform consumers about all the pills’ potentially dangerous side effects.
Shaw’s Medication Error Horror Story
Three years ago, Shaw went to her doctor for symptoms of depression and received a prescription for Lamictal. She took the medication for two weeks before developing blisters all over her body. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a rare disorder of the skin that causes the body to burn from the inside out. The disorder is directly linked to medication use.
“I never heard of Steven Johnson Syndrome until I was in the hospital with my skin melting off my body. That’s when I learned what it was,” Shaw told 11Alive News.
This case, along with the results of Johns Hopkins’ recent study, sheds some serious light on the host of potentially deadly prescription pills, capsules, syrups, injections, inhalers and drops that we assume, for all intents and purposes, are safe for us to use.
While natural or herbal supplements aren’t always effective, nor are they always safe to use, many health advocates are looking at what happened to Khaliah Shaw as a sign that going “less chemical, more green” is a safer option when it comes to treating certain health conditions or maladies.
Yet, whether you take a medication prescribed by your physician or a natural supplement approved by a licensed healthcare practitioner, you are still putting yourself at a certain degree of risk. In the case of Shaw, however, her risk greatly, even criminally, exceeded the amount of risk that one would reasonable expect to come with taking a prescription medication.
Since Shaw’s tragic medication error, GSK has paid out three billion dollars in fines for allegations relating to fraud and failure to report product safety data for the drug, Lamictal.
As for sharing her story with the rest of the world, Shaw told The Palm Beach Post, "It is difficult being in the spotlight, but I think it is worth it if it means someone is more educated about the medication that they are taking.”