Raptiva Recall Lawsuit Trial Over Fatal Infection Delayed

The first trial over claims that the recalled psoriasis drug Raptiva caused a fatal brain infection has been pushed back to June. 

Jury selection in the first Raptiva trial was scheduled to begin on January 30, but earlier this week parties indicated that the trial had been delayed until June 4.

The case involves a complaint brought against Genentech Inc., a subsidiary of Roche, by the family of Stephen Johnson, who died in January 2009 from a rare brain infection known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML.

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A Raptiva recall was issued about three months after Johnson’s death, following a number of reported cases of PML from Raptiva.

The trial was delayed after plaintiff attorneys claimed that Roche agreed to a Raptiva settlement, which the company denied and the legal team for the plaintiff later retracted.

Johnson’s family is seeking about $15 million in compensatory damages and will also seeking punitive damages against Genentech. The complaint and a number of other Raptiva recall lawsuits allege that the drug maker know about the risks associated with the medication as early as 2004, following another fatal case of the brain infection reported among a user of the medication.

Raptiva (efalizumab) was a once-weekly injection used to treat psoriasis. In October 2008, Genentech added a “black box” warning to the medication in the United States indicating that infection side effects of Raptiva could increase the risk of viral meningitis, invasive fungal disease, bacterial sepsis, the rare brain disease progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) and other opportunistic infections.

In April 2009, Genentech recalled Raptiva in the United States after it was linked to at least three confirmed and one suspected case of PML.

The brain infection attacks the central nervous system and is often fatal. Symptoms can include weakness, paralysis, vision loss, impaired speech, cognitive deterioration and death. It was determined that the risks associated with the drug outweighed any potential benefits provided in treating psoriasis.

At the time Raptiva was removed from the market, the drug was only being used by about 2,000 people in the Untied States and it had only been used by 46,000 people worldwide since it was first introduced in 2003.

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