Jury Awards $18 Million in Accutane Lawsuit

Jury_AwardA jury in Atlantic City, NJ has awarded two plaintiffs $9 million each in an Accutane lawsuit against Roche Pharmaceuticals. The jury found the Basel, Switzerland-based drug manufacturer negligent in warning consumers of the potential risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, when taking the drug.

Accutane, the trade name for the drug isotretinoin, has been prescribed as a treatment of last resort for severe forms of acne which has not responded to other, less aggressive treatment options. The drug, which is a derivative of vitamin A, acts by reducing the release of oil from the skin which can be the cause of severe acne breakouts. Due to its toxicity, Accutane treatment is highly controlled in the United States and can only be obtained through a special program called iPLEDGE which monitors all users of the drug.

Recently, researchers at the University of North Carolina released a study linking Accutane to severe gastrointestinal side effects including inflammatory bowel disease. The gastrointestinal disorder IBD occurs with chronic symptoms of abdominal or stomach pain along with bouts of diarrhea or vomiting. The UNC research found that those study subjects using Accutane were more likely to develop symptoms of IBD than those not using the drug.

Additionally, in 2010 the American Journal of Gastroenterology (www.nature.com/ajg) published a study also highlighting the potential link between Accutane use and gastrointestinal issues. This study found that Accutane users were four times more likely to develop ulcerative colitis than those who had not had the drug.

Accutane, introduced by Roche Pharmaceuticals in 1982, was discontinued in the U.S. in 2009 due in part to ongoing litigation and rising legal costs to defend the drug. In fact, Roche is still facing mounting legal troubles concerning side effects of the drug. Numerous lawsuits are pending which allege that the drug has caused serious gastrointestinal side effects, including IBD. This latest award was to the two New Jersey plaintiffs who claimed that Accutane was responsible for their IBD.

In response to the verdict, Roche states that it did act appropriately in regards to safety issues and Accutane, saying all necessary information was provided to all medical, scientific and regulatory bodies.