Roche Holding AG must pay $12.9 million to plaintiffs who blamed the Accutane acne medicine for their inflammatory bowel disease, a New Jersey jury ruled, handing the company its fourth trial loss in the case.
Roche didn’t give proper warnings to doctors for three Florida residents about the risks of Accutane, which was a substantial factor in their illness, a state court jury found yesterday in Atlantic City. The judge combined three lawsuits into one trial. With three earlier losses for individuals, Roche has now lost jury verdicts involving six plaintiffs.
The message from the jury was that Accutane causes inflammatory bowel disease and Roche improperly warned physicians,” Stephen Bolton, a plaintiffs’ lawyer, said in an interview. “This verdict should send a strong message to Roche to seriously consider the allegations in these lawsuits.”
Roche, based in Basel, Switzerland, faces about 550 suits over Accutane, according to Bolton.
The company is disappointed in the verdict after a five-week trial and disagrees with the finding that Accutane causes inflammatory bowel disease, said Shelley Rosenstock, a company spokeswoman.
“The Accutane labeling has contained a warning about IBD for more than 20 years,” Rosenstock said in a statement. “Nevertheless, there is no reliable evidence that Accutane actually causes IBD.”
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, Rosenstock said in an interview.
Plaintiffs’ attorney David Buchanan said Roche is “not interested in discussing settlement” of the remaining cases.
The verdict yesterday means “the company should accept responsibility for the injuries they’ve caused to patients on this drug and the absence of a proper warning,” he said. Roche “should be well past denying that Accutane causes inflammatory bowel disease or that it failed to provide an adequate warning.”
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 and rivals started selling generic versions. Along with bowel disease, Accutane has been linked to birth defects and depression.
Accutane is made by Roche’s unit Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc. of Nutley, New Jersey.
The cases are Mace v. Hoffmann LaRoche Inc., Speisman v. Hoffmann LaRoche Inc. and Sager v. Hoffmann LaRoche Inc., New Jersey Superior Court, Atlantic County (Atlantic City).
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