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Skin Medication Accutane Linked to Birth Defects, Bowel Disease

A recent case from the Supreme Court of New Jersey involved a products liability action filed against the major pharmaceutical maker that is now known as Roche in connection with its Accutane drug.  Accutane is the brand name for the drug isotretinoin. The drug was originally developed by Hoffmann-La Roche labs and was used to treat a severe skin condition known as nodular acne.  It was also used in some cases to treat a form of skin cancer.

pillsWhile the drug was effective at treating acne, it had some serious side effects associated with it.  In some cases, it would lead to severe birth defects.  For this reason, women taking the drug had to be counseled against becoming pregnant while taking it, and also needed to either abstain from sex entirely or use what were considered effective contraceptives.  Condoms were not considered sufficient when not used in conjunction with another method of birth control.  For this reason, Accutane is considered a teratogen, meaning it can cause birth defects.
As our Boston Accutane injury attorneys can explain, in addition to birth defects, the drug had also been shown to cause severe inflammatory bowel disease.  There have been numerous products liability lawsuits filed over this side effect, and they resulted in significant judgments against Roche. Additionally, the drug has been associated with various other serious psychological issues.

In this case, the plaintiff took the drug and developed inflammatory bowel disease.  He took the medication when he was living in New Jersey.  For those that are not familiar with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it is very serious medical condition that involves a chronic inflation of possibly the entire digestive system.  It is extremely painful and debilitating.  In addition to the extreme pain and suffering, patients will suffer from severe fatigue, chronic diarrhea, and may have potentially fatal complications. Patients will often take the most powerful cancer treatments, which have serious side effects as well.

The basis of his lawsuit was the drug company failed to adequately warn him of the known dangers associated with this drug. Following trial, the jury awarded plaintiff over $25 million in damages. As one might expect, the drug company filed a timely appeal and did so on the basis that the case, eventually tried in New Jersey, involved an application of the law from an improper jurisdiction.

In these large multistate litigation matters, the judge is required to follow various choice of law provisions in state and federal statutes.  This can be very complicated, and, for that reason, you should make sure to speak with an experienced products liability attorney who has dealt with choice of law issues.

In this case, the intermediary court of appeals found for the defendant and reversed the jury’s large damages award.  At that point, plaintiff appealed to the state supreme court.  This time, the court held that the trial judge had not erred as a matter of law and reinstated the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

If you are the victim of Massachusetts product liability, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
McCarrell v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc, January 24, 2017 New Jersey Court of Appeals

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