A New Jersey appeals court has overturned the verdicts in three Accutane lawsuits that went to trial jointly in 2008, finding that the plaintiffs failed to establish that stronger label warnings about the risk of bowel problems would have stopped them from using the acne drug, which was required under the Florida law that applied to the cases.
The decision came from the Appellate Division of Superior Court of New Jersey, supporting an appeal by Roche Laboratories and Hoffman-La Roche, Inc., the manufacturers of Accutane. The court threw out jury verdicts that were in favor of Lance Sager, Jordan Speisman and Kelly Mace, all Florida residents who alleged they suffered bowel problems from side effects of Accutane.
The appeals court looked to a Florida decision in a similar case as precedent. The case the court relied on resulted in a victory for the drug makers, because a doctor testified that even if Accutane had carried a stronger label warning he would have prescribed it anyway. Doctors made similar comments in the cases of the three verdicts up for appeal.
Accutane, known generically as isotretinoin, has been used by more than 16 million people worldwide since it was first introduced in the early 1980s. The brand name version was removed from the market amid mounting litigation over Accutane, which alleges that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s diesease.
More than 7,000 Accutane bowel disease lawsuits are pending in New Jersey state court, where the cases are centralized for “mass tort treatment” before Judge Carol E. Higbee.
Last month a New Jersey jury awarded $9 million to two Accutane plaintiffs, finding that the company failed to properly warn doctors and patients of the risk of IBD. However, the jury rejected two other claims, because they determined that the warnings would not have made a difference on whether the plaintiffs used the drugs.