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Accutane Injury Results in $10.5 Million Judgment

Apr 23, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A woman who said she developed ulcerative colitis from taking Accutane was awarded $10.5 million by a New Jersey jury yesterday.  It was the third of 425 Accutane lawsuits alleging that the drug caused inflammatory bowel disease in some users to go to trial.  All three cases have resulted in multi-million dollar judgments against Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc., the maker of Accutane.

Approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982, Accutane has been the subject of controversy for years. In addition to inflammatory bowel disease, the drug has been associated with myriad of other serious Accutane side effects. It first garnered attention in the late eighties for causing severe birth defects. It has also been known to cause psychiatric problems, and has been linked to 266 cases of suicide in the United States.  In addition to inflammatory bowel disease, Accutane has also been associated with problems of the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and pancreas, as well as the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and auto-immune systems.

Inflammatory bowel disease refers to two chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the intestines: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.  In ulcerative colitis, the inner lining of the intestine becomes inflamed  and develops ulcers. Ulcerative colitis is often the most severe in the rectal area, which can cause frequent diarrhea. Mucus and blood often appear in the stool if the lining of the colon is damaged.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Kamie Kendall, a 24-year-old Utah hairdresser, started taking Accutane at age 12.  She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 14, and in 2006 she had her colon removed and now suffers from debilitating diarrhea.  The jury awarded Kendall $10.5 million of compensatory damages plus $78,500 for medical expenses. The judge presiding over the case ruled there was insufficient evidence to allow the jury to consider punitive damages or consumer fraud.

Kendall is the third Accutane plaintiff to successfully sue Hoffman-LaRoche over inflammatory bowel disease.  In May, another New Jersey jury awarded $2.62 million in damages to a patient who needed to have his colon and most of his rectum removed after taking the drug Accutane.  In October, A Florida jury  awarded $7 million in damages to another Accutane user who developed the disorder and said Hoffman-LaRoche failed to adequately warn of the drug's risks.

Hoffman-LaRoche has said it will appeal all of the verdicts, and insisted that the link between Accutane and inflammatory bowel disease has not yet been proven.  In a statement, the company also said that "the Accutane labeling has contained a warning about IBD for more than 20 years."


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