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Jury Awards Woman $1.5 Million in Accutane Trial

Filed March 13th, 2014 Laurie

A woman who developed a form of inflammatory bowel diseasen (IBD) after taking the acne drug Accutane was awarded $1.5 million by a New Jersey jury on Tuesday. It was the woman’s second victory; an earlier verdict had been overturned by appeal.

Hoffman-LaRoche Inc., the maker of Accutane, was ordered to pay Kamie Kendall Rees $1.5 million in compensatory damages and an additional $88,000 for past medical expenses at the conclusion of the month-long trial. Rees’ attorneys had argued that Roche knew Accutane could cause IBD and failed to adequately warn of the medication’s risks, according to Law360.com.

Kendall Rees started taking Accutane at the age of 12 for severe recalcitrant nodular acne and developed IBD three years later. The condition forced the woman to have part of her colon removed in 2006, when she was 21, Law360 wrote.

During the second trial, Roche shared the results of six epidemiological studies released between 2009 and 2013 that found no association between Accutane and IBD and or were simply inconclusive. None of the papers were available when the first case was tried, according to Law360.com.

The jury was unconvinced and “flatly refused” the studies, saying that many of them were limited in their methodology, and that in some cases the results were more favorable to Reese than to Roche. The jurors were also unmoved by Roche’s assertion that Kendall Rees could not prove she would have avoided Accutane if she had known about the potential side effects because her mother allowed Kendall’s younger sister to take the drug, even after she suspected Accutane was the source of Kendall’s health problems, Law360.com reported.

Accutane was approved in 1982 as a treatment for recalcitrant acne. The medication works by drying up sebum, the oily substance produced by skin glands. Too much of the substance can cause bacterial growth and inflammation of the skin follicles, which can lead to acne.

Accutane has been linked to gastrointestinal problems such as IBD, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease for many years. It has also been known to cause depression and liver disease. The drug was finally removed from the market in June 2009.

Accutane has been named in more than 5,000 lawsuits, several of which have resulted in large awards upwards of $10 million.

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