Roche ordered to pay $13M to users of acne drug

By  | 

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – A jury has ordered drugmaker Roche to pay nearly $13 million to three patients who claim they developed a chronic bowel disorder because of the company's acne drug Accutane.

Roche's U.S. subsidiary Hoffman-La Roche said it would appeal the verdict.

The money, handed down in New Jersey State Superior Court on Thursday, will be split among the three Florida residents, their attorneys said in a statement. All three began using Accutane a decade ago to treat teenage acne. One of the group is expected to soon have his colon surgically removed while the others will require long-term drug therapy, the attorneys said.

The award is the latest stemming from a wave of lawsuits that accuse Roche of downplaying a link between Accutane and inflammatory bowel disease, which afflicts about 1.4 million people in the U.S. and Canada.

Accutane's warning label notes that the drug is "associated with" chronic bowel problems, but the company has argued that there is no direct connection between its drug and the disease.

Lawyers representing the three patients presented internal Roche studies that they argue show the company knew Accutane caused damage to the intestinal tract that leads to inflammatory bowel disease.

"This is an important outcome and consistent with the recognition by the medical community that Accutane is a trigger for IBD," said David Buchanan, a partner with Seeger Weiss in New York who helped argue the plaintiffs' case.

Nutley, N.J.-based Hoffman-La Roche reiterated in a statement "there is no reliable scientific evidence that Accutane actually causes" inflammatory bowel disease. The company pointed out that the disease often occurs in patients 15 to 35 years old — roughly the same group of patients who take Accutane.

More than 13 million people worldwide have used the drug since it was approved in 1982, according to Roche.