Inflammatory Bowel Disease Lawsuits on the Rise Even After Accutane is Pulled From the Market

On February 16, 2010, a unanimous New Jersey jury awarded over Twenty-Five Million Dollars ($25,000,000) to a young man who had five surgeries and had his colon removed as a result of Accutane-induced Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This verdict was reached after a retrial of the same case where a previous jury awarded $2.62 million and is the largest verdict of the six Accutane lawsuits to go to trial. Since the verdict, over one hundred (100) new Accutane cases have been filed in New Jersey alone, adding to the over eight hundred (800) cases still awaiting a trial date.

Accutane had been available to treat acne sufferers since its introduction in 1982, but its manufacturer, Roche Holding AG (Roche), pulled it from the market exactly one year ago in June 2009. Accordingly, while there are still generic versions of Accutane available, suits against Roche will most likely come to an end over the course of the next year as fewer and fewer people will no longer be ingesting Roche’s long-standing drug. The reasons for pulling Accutane seem quite obvious: multiple jury verdicts as a result of Roche’s failure to strengthen Accutane’s warnings concerning IBD, ulcerative colitis, birth defects and depression – along with increased competition from generic manufacturers.

Despite the significance of these verdicts, these lawsuits, like all pharmaceutical cases, are won and lost based upon manufacturer’s conduct. Proving liability can be difficult, especially when warnings related to the risk at issue are already on the drug’s label.

The labeling regarding Accutane has, at a minimum, cautioned physicians about the association between Accutane and IBD. And by 2000, the label contained warnings concerning IBD. Still, despite these warnings, multiple New Jersey juries have now found that these precautions and warnings were inadequate to warn physicians about the true risk of this drug. In other words, these juries concluded that Roche was not being completely truthful with physicians concerning the extent of the IBD risk caused by Accutane and that caused the plaintiff’s injury.

In late 2009, a study presented to the American College of Gastroenterology, concluded that the chance of developing IBD was increased 68% for people who ingested Accutane, compared to those who did not. The risk of developing IBD increased as patients ingested more of the drug.

If you or a member of your family has suffered damages as a result of ingesting Accutane, please contact us at Pogust Braslow & Millrood.