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Accutane Pulled from Market Amid Lawsuits, Increased Generic Competition

Jun 29, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

Accutane is being pulled from the market by its maker, Roche AG.   According to the Associated Press, Roche said the decision to start Accutane recall was made for economic rather than safety reasons.  But as anyone who reads this blog known, over the past couple of years, Roche has lost several Accutane lawsuits, and been ordered to pay more than $33 million to people who claim they were injured by the drug.

Approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982, Accutane has been the subject of controversy for years. 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 hundreds of cases of suicide in the United States. Drug’s side effects were also thoroughly studied in Canada (Accutane lawsuit filed there is not uncommon since this acne treatment 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).

Most recently, Roche lost several Accutane lawsuits brought by people who claimed the drug caused them to develop inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In  November 2008, a New Jersey jury ordered the company to pay $13 million to three such plaintiffs.  The previous April, another New Jersey jury awarded $10.5 million to a woman who blamed the drug for her ulcerative colitis. In May 2007, another New Jersey trial  resulted in an  award of $2.62 million to a patient who needed to have his colon and most of his rectum removed after taking the drug.  In October that  same year, a Florida jury  awarded $7 million in damages to another Accutane user who developed the IBD.

In announcing its decision to pull Accutane, Roche did cite the high cost of product liability suits - it currently faces 5000 such lawsuits - involving the drug.  But according to, the company also said a reevaluation of its product line had shown Accutane faced serious competition from generics.  

Roche said Accutane will be pulled in the U.S. and 11 other countries. The last date for distribution in the United States was June 25. According to Reuters, Accutane is now no longer available from Roche directly but patients may still be able to get it from pharmacies.

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