A New Jersey jury has ordered the maker of Accutane to pay a total of $18 million to two people who developed inflammatory bowel diseases while using the drug. According to a report from Bloomberg News, Roche Holding AG has now lost nine of 13 Accutane lawsuits that have gone to trial since juries began hearing the cases in April 2007, though some verdicts have been overturned on appeal.
Approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 1982 to treat acne, Accutane first gained notoriety in the late eighties for causing severe birth defects. It has also been linked to psychiatric problems, including hundreds of cases of suicide in the United States. 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.
In 2009, Roche decided to stop marketing Accutane for economic reasons. In announcing the decision, Roche cited the high cost of product liability suits involving the drug as one of the factors in the decision.
According to Bloomberg, plaintiffs Kathleen Rossitto and Riley Wilkinson had alleged that Roche failed to warn that Accutane could cause inflammatory bowel diseases. Each was awarded $9 million in compensatory damages for the injuries caused by their use of Accutane.
However, the same jury rejected claims by two other plaintiffs in the consolidated lawsuit that Accutane was responsible for their ailments.
There are currently more than 7,000 cases pending in New Jersey and elsewhere on behalf of former Accutane users who developed inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, after using the drug. To date, plaintiffs have won over $78 million in Accutane verdicts against Roche.
Following one 2007 trial in New Jersey state court, Roche was able to successfully overturn a jury’s award of $2.62 million in compensation awarded to a man who developed inflammatory bowel problems. However, that case was retried, with another New Jersey jury awarding the same man more than $25 million. In August 2010, the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division threw out an award of $10.5 million stemming from a 2008 Accutane trial, and ordered a new case for that trial.