Dilantin Lawsuit

Pfizer Inc. allegedly knew for years that Dilantin can cause Cerebellar Atrophy, a debilitating and progressive brain disorder associated with phenytoin toxicity. Filing a Dilantin lawsuit could allow victims of phenytoin-induced Cerebellar Atrophy to obtain compensation for their injury-related damages.

Contact a Dilantin Lawsuit Attorney Today

The nationwide law firm of Bernstein Liebhard is offering free, confidential and no-obligation legal reviews to victims of Dilantin-related Cerebellar Atrophy. To learn more about filing a Dilantin Lawsuit, please call (888) 994-5118.

Dilantin Toxicity

Dilantin (phenytoin) has been on the market since 1953, and remains one of the most widely-used medications in the world.

The drug is currently indicated to treat grand mal and temporal lobe seizures associated with epilepsy, and to prevent and treat seizures that can occur during or after brain surgery. Dilantin may also be use to control certain types of arrythmias (irregular heart beat), neuropathic pain, and mood disorders like bipolar disorder.

Long-term treatment with phenytoin, the active ingredient in Dilantin, can produce toxic side effects, including:

  • Nystagmus: Fast, uncontrollable eye movements or double vision.
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, or confusion
  • Lack of coordination in fingers, hands, arms, legs, or body
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased activity
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Irregular jerky movements in children or the elderly

Dilantin and Cerebellar Atrophy

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests a relationship between Dilantin toxicity and Cerebellar Atrophy. In 1990, for example, researchers noted that patients treated with phenytoin for more than 5 years experienced unsteady gait, speech problems and impaired muscle control due to cerebella nerve cell deficiencies in the brain.

Seizures, including those treated with Dilantin, are also known to cause Cerebellar Atrophy.  Nevertheless, a 1994 study found that phenytoin patients had smaller cerebellums overall compared to those treated with a placebo, even after its authors controlled for seizures.

In 2003, another team of researchers observed irreversible deterioration in the cerebellums of patients suffering from phenytoin toxicity.

Pregnant women, infants and the elderly appear to face the greatest danger of Dilantin-induced Cerebellar Atrophy.  The risk also increases with long-term Dilantin use and when drug serum levels are above the therapeutic range. However, patients with optimum levels of Dilantin in their blood have also experienced cerebral degeneration,

What is Cerebellar Atrophy?

Cerebella Atrophy occurs when neurons in the brain’s cerebellum become damaged and start to weaken. This type of brain damage is often associated with

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Dementia
  • Certain Infection diseases, such as advanced AIDs
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Tumors

Cerebella Atrophy can also occur after exposure to ethanol, certain chemotherapy treatments and phenytoin.

Cerebellar Atrophy Symptoms & Treatment

Victims of Cerebellar Atrophy may experience a poor balance, slow movements, tremors and shaking, and unstable eye movements. The most common symptoms  include:

  • A lurching, unsteady walk, often characterized by a back and forth tremor in the main part of the body
  • Slow, unsteady, jerky movements in the arms or legs
  • Slow and slurred speech
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nystagmus
  • Memory loss

Cerebellar Atrophy is occassionally mistaken for a stroke, and some victims might even appear drunk.

Patients with only localized brain damage sometimes recover once they stop Dilantin treatment. However, withdrawal can be dangerous and must be monitored by a doctor. Severe cases of phenytoin-induced Cerebellar Atrophy have resulted in permanent injuries and complications.

Dilantin Lawsuit Filings and Settlements

According to a multi-plaintiff Dilantin lawsuit filed in October 2018, Pfizer knew that phenytoin could cause Cerebral Atrophy by 2009. But the Dilantin label failed to even mention the disorder until 2016.

Unfortunately, the filing wasn’t the first time Pfizer faced legal action over Dilantin side effects.  In 2010, for example, a Massachusetts jury awarded $140 million to a woman who developed toxic epidermal necrolysis, or TEN, from phenytoin.

In January 2010, Pfizer was ordered to pay $10 million to a Dilantin patient who suffered Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and cerebellar shrinkage. Just 11 months later, the company settled another lawsuit involving Dilantin and SJS for $4 million.

Learn if You’re Eligible to File a Dilantin Lawsuit

Patients diagnosed with phenytoin-induced Cerebellar Atrophy prior to January 2016, or their surviving loved ones, may be eligible to file their own Dilantin lawsuit. For your free, no-obligation case review, please fill out the form on this page, or call our office today at (888) 994-5118.

  1. Pfizer (2019) “Dilantin Medication Guide” http://labeling.pfizer.com/ShowLabeling.aspx?id=546&section=MedGuide
  2. Acta Oncoligica (1999) “Stevens-Johnson Syndrome in Patients on Phenytoin and Cranial Radiotherapy” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/028418699431898
  3. JAMA Neurology (1994) “Cerebellar Atrophy in Patients With Long-term Phenytoin Exposure and Epilepsy” https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/article-abstract/592995
  4. Science Direct (2003) “Cerebellar volume and long-term use of phenytoin” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1059131102002674
  5. FDA (2016) “Phenytoin Drug Safety Labeling Changes” https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/safetylabelingchanges/index.cfm?event=searchdetail.page&DrugNameID=134
  6. Reuters (2018) “Pfizer hit with multi-plaintiff suit over anti-seizure drug Dilantin” https://www.reuters.com/article/products-dilantin/pfizer-hit-with-multi-plaintiff-suit-over-anti-seizure-drug-dilantin-idUSL2N1WR2C4


Last Modified: April 29, 2019

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