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Roche Loses Fourth Accutane Trial, Ordered to Pay 3 IBD Victims $12.9 Million

Nov 21, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The maker of Accutane has been ordered to pay nearly $13 million to three people who said the acne medication caused them to develop inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).   The verdict in the New Jersey Accutane lawsuits - which were combined for trial - marks the fourth time Roche AG has lost an IBD case at trial, Bloomberg News reports.

IBD refers to two chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the intestines: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These diseases cause the lining of the intestine to become inflamed  and develop ulcers.

According to Bloomberg News, about 13 million people have taken Accutane since it went on the market in 1982. The medication was Roche's second-biggest selling drug before the patent expired in 2002.  The drug has been controversial, however, because of its association with various 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 IBD, 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.  Because of these problems, Accutane has been named in over 500 lawsuits.

According to Bloomberg News, a jury in Atlantic City, New Jersey ruled yesterday that Roche failed to properly warn of Accutane's side effects.  The jury awarded a total of $12.9 million to the three plaintiffs, all of whom were from Florida.  According to Bloomberg, Jordan Speisman, 27, won compensatory damages of $8.5 million and medical expenses of $142,500; Lance Sager, 28, damages of $2.5 million and medical costs of $125,000; and Kelly Mace, 25, damages of $1.5 million and medical expenses of $128,000.

As Bloomberg reported, this is the fourth time Roche has lost an Accutane trial involving IBD.  In April, we reported that 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 lawsuit plaintiff who developed the IBD.

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