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Mom's denial of drug could make boy blind

A doctor has complained to state child care workers that a mother won't let her 11-year-old son take a drug that could save his eyesight.

Dr. Barry Waters said he and the boy's eye specialists recommended that the child take methotrexate, commonly prescribed to treat an arthritis-related eye disease the boy has.

But the boy's mother, Margie Lacre, has researched the drug and decided it posed too much of a risk of side effects, including lung and liver damage, said Waters, an arthritis specialist.

The doctors contend that side effects only occur rarely and that the boy could go blind within months without treatment.

Over the past year, Lacre has left her son on medications that let his vision get worse, Waters said.

Waters' staff filed the medical neglect complaint Wednesday, hoping the Department of Children and Families will persuade the mother to agree to treatment or take legal action to compel it.

The son's last name differs from his mother's, and Waters would not identify him because of patient confidentiality.

Lacre could not be reached for comment Monday. Her telephone number is unlisted.

The doctor's complaint is being investigated by child protection officers at the Broward County Sheriff's Office, which handles local abuse calls for the DCF.

Medical experts on the county's Child Protection Team will evaluate if the state should try to intervene, said sheriff's spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright.

Methotrexate often is prescribed to relieve the inflammation and pain of arthritis, Waters said. In the boy's case, Waters said the arthritis is attacking collagen in his eyes, damaging his eyesight and preventing normal eye movement.

Methotrexate can cause nausea, hair loss, liver damage, lung damage and decreased fertility when it is used as a once-a-day chemotherapy, but it is safe when used as a once-a-week treatment for arthritis, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases said in a report for consumers last year.

The family's eye doctors at Bascom-Palmer Eye Institute in Miami suggested methotrexate more than a year ago, Waters said. He said the boy instead was treated with steroid eyedrops that helped but led to glaucoma and cataracts.