- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

BARTOW, Fla. (AP) — A Florida woman is suing the baby sitter who gave her daughter a fatal dose of Benadryl, as well as the maker of the drug and the pharmacy accused of selling the product.

Paula Burcham was sentenced in August to eight years in prison for giving 3-month-old Grace Fields a lethal dose of Benadryl.

The child died from intoxication by diphenhydramine, the drug’s active ingredient. The antihistamine and sedative commonly is used as a cough suppressant and sleeping aid and in other medicines.

Earlier this month, Tracy Fields, the child’s mother, filed a wrongful death and product-liability lawsuit against Burcham; Pfizer Inc., the New York-based maker of Benadryl; and the Perrigo Co., which makes generic versions of the medicine.

The lawsuit contends that Burcham gave the child Benadryl with “willful disregard” for her safety because Burcham wanted to quiet the baby.

Pfizer spokesman Tom Sanford said the company does not recommend that Benadryl be given to infants.

Prosecutors said Burcham never told paramedics that she had poured three teaspoons of Benadryl into a bottle of breast milk for the child. Burcham later denied that this had been done to control behavior.

The lawsuit seeks more than $15,000 in damages and names Clearwater, Fla.-based Eckerd Corp., which owns the pharmacy that Mrs. Fields says sold the medicine to Burcham. Other defendants are Polk County, the Polk County Health Department and the state Department of Children & Families (DCF).

DCF spokesman Bill Spann said the agency does not comment on pending litigation, but he urged parents to check the qualifications of day-care providers carefully.

Burcham, 53, ran an unlicensed day-care center out of her home.

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