Hoffman-La Roche, the manufacturer of acne drug Accutane, recently tried to remove the judge presiding over its consolidated injury cases. The New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the drug maker’s request, making for what we can assume will be a very awkward court proceeding. Our Accutane attorneys take a closer look at this massive acne drug litigation.
There are over 7,700 lawsuits currently consolidated in the Accutane multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is presided over by Judge Carol Higbee. Hoffman-La Roche (Roche) attempted to expel Judge Higbee because of comments she made during a conference about the Accutane MDL. Higbee apparently criticized Roche for refusing to settle the injury cases and how it treated plaintiffs.
Accutane Recalls, Million-Dollar Verdicts
The Accutane plaintiffs all suffered serious injuries and health complications after taking the acne drug, including inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease and colitis), suicidal thoughts, bone growth issues, and birth defects. Thus far, Roche has paid about $53 million to Accutane plaintiffs nationwide, all of whom suffered from inflammatory bowel disorder from taking the acne medication.
In 2008, the first Accutane trial was won by a plaintiff who was awarded $10.5 million by a jury. One year after this case Accutane was permanently recalled from the market, though it still sells the drug under the name Roaccutane in other countries.
In 2010, a year after the official recall, Roche was forced to pay over $25 million to a single patient who developed severe inflammatory bowel disease from Accutane. The man had to undergo five surgeries and have his colon completely removed as a result. This case was presided over by none other than Judge Higbee, who ordered the court to pay another $18 million in 2012 to two Accutane patients who developed ulcerative colitis.
What won the case for these plaintiffs were internal Roche documents dating from 1994 which outlined a series of Accutane patient reports experiencing IBD. Accutane was approved in 1982, and by 1997 the FDA began receiving its own reports of IBD in Accutane patients, along with cases of severe depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, and psychosis. By 2005, there were nearly 200 suicides associated to Accutane use.
An End in Sight
Roche issued a stay on the New Jersey Accutane MDL while the state’s Supreme Court considered expelling Judge Higbee, however, that stay is now lifted. As stated, Roche believed Judge Higbee to favor plaintiffs in the MDL based on remarks she made during conferences. According to Law360, the comments she made during those sessions were very one-sided, as she voiced concern about the drug maker’s litigation strategy. She reportedly mentioned that some of Roche’s attorneys asked extremely disturbing questions relating to plaintiffs’ sexual history.
Our team of Accutane attorneys has been working on these cases for years, and is still reviewing cases for potential clients throughout the country. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with any type of bowel inflammatory disease after taking Accutane, contact our firm immediately. We provide free case reviews to anyone who believes they are eligible for compensation.