An Alabama man began taking a popular acne medication, Accutane to treat his acne when he was 24 years old. Shortly after he stopped taking the drug, he developed chronic ulcerative colitis also known as inflammatory bowel disease.
The victim, Andrew McCarrell, a former college football and soccer player was one year out of college, very physically active and within one year of his first taking this drug, had his colon removed.
Accutane, manufactured by Roche Laboratories, first went on the market in 1982. Since that time more than 13 million people worldwide have taken it for severe acne.
A jury in New Jersey has returned a verdict for Mr. McCarrell in the amount of $25.16 Million. When the case was previously tried in May of 2007, a jury returned a verdict of $2.62 Million. The drug maker appealed that verdict and got a new trial. The second trial resulted in a verdict nearly 10 times the original award.
Mr. McCarrell's lawyers proved at the trial that Roche Laboratories had internal documents which indicated that their doctors and scientists knew that Accutane caused inflammatory bowel disease.
A pharmacologist testified that Accutane’s warning label which Roche Laboratories had not changed since 1984, did not accurately reflect the company's knowledge about the risk of inflammatory bowel disease at the time it was prescribed for Mr. McCarrell.
The victim's lawyers also presented a recent study by the University of North Carolina which showed that people who took a generic version of the drug, Isotretinoin, had a higher rate of bowel disorders.
In his closing argument, the victim's lawyer reviewed overwhelming evidence that Roche laboratories own documents showed that the company knew Accutane triggered inflammatory bowel disease but that the corporation "put marketing in front of safety".
Mr. McCarrell had five surgeries, had his colon and rectum removed and now goes to the bathroom 10 to 20 times a day.
Roche Laboratories took Accutane off the market in June of 2009 citing falling sales and the cost of defending lawsuits. So far, six victims have won a total of $56 Million in damages in cases in which they claimed Roche Laboratories knew or should have known about the risk of inflammatory bowel disease from taking Accutane.
The plaintiff's lawyer stated that Mr. McCarrell's case was bad but that his is not the worst and that there have been many young kids who have had their colons taken out or their bowels reconstructed after taking Accutane.
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