Roche Holding AG, the Swiss drugmaker, must pay $25.16 million in damages to a former user of its Accutane drug who blamed the acne medicine for his inflammatory bowel disease, a New Jersey jury ruled.
Andrew McCarrell, 38, won the verdict at a retrial in Atlantic City, New Jersey. An appeals court ordered the new trial after overturning a $2.62 million award he won in May 2007. McCarrell, a computer technician from Birmingham, Alabama, testified he got sick after taking the drug for acne in 1995. He needed five surgeries, including one to remove his colon.
The verdict was the largest of six for Accutane users who won awards totaling $56 million. Roche lost every case, although a Florida appeals court overturned one of those judgments for $7.2 million. In each case, plaintiffs claimed Roche failed to warn adequately of the risks.
Roche stopped selling the drug in June 2009, citing generic competition and the high cost of defending personal injury lawsuits. Roche faces almost 1,000 other lawsuits over Accutane.
More than 13 million people took Accutane after it was introduced in 1982. The drug also has been associated with birth defects and depression. Accutane was made by Roche unit Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc. of Nutley, New Jersey.
The nine jurors deliberated for 3.5 hours today before ruling unanimously that McCarrell deserves $25 million in compensatory damages and $159,000 for past medical expenses. McCarrell claimed Roche violated New Jersey’s consumer fraud law.
Seven of the nine jurors agreed that Roche failed to provide an adequate warning, and that the company’s failure was a “proximate cause” of his inflammatory bowel disease.
Juror Vince Packer said, “It was all about the wording on the label. It didn’t give a clear-cut explanation as to what you can get by taking this drug. That’s my issue — was it properly labeled?”
The case is McCarrell v. Hoffmann LaRoche Inc., L-1951-03, New Jersey Superior Court, Atlantic County (Atlantic City).
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