Plaintiffs Describe Severe Pain After Using Accutane


What is Accutane?

Use of the acne medication isotretinoin (Accutane) is associated with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to researchers from the University of San Diego. Inflammatory bowel disease refers to two chronic conditions that cause inflammation of the digestive tract, known separately as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Accutane has been used by more than 13 million people worldwide and was one of Roche Pharmaceutical’s best-selling drugs, with about $200 million a year in sales before its patent expired in 2002.

A Roche executive admitted that the company was aware of the Accutane side effects as early as 1978. Despite studies that showed the drug’s tendency to cause gastrointestinal disorders in more than 20% of patients treated with Accutane, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for prescription and use in treating severe nodular acne in 1982.

In June 2009, Roche pulled Accutane from the market sighting competition from generic versions of the drug and the costs of personal injury lawsuits as the reason.


Accutane Trial

During opening statements, the attorney representing James Marshall, a 44 year old actor best known for his part as U.S. Marine Louden Downey in the 1992 hit movie “A Few Good Men”, and two other California residents, Kelley Andrews, a 29 year old account manager and Gillian Gaghan, a 34 year old nursing assistant, described the injuries that caused the plaintiffs to bring lawsuits against Roche Holding as a result of its failure to warn the public about the severe side effects from using Accutane, the second-biggest selling drug.

  • All three plaintiffs contend that the drug left them struggling to deal with their bodily wastes.
  • Both Andrews and Marshall battle incontinence while Gaghan has “developed lupus-like symptoms” as a result of taking drugs to deal with her Accutane-linked bowel disease.
  • Andrews, who took Accutane over two years starting in 1997, has endured dozens of hospitalizations and surgeries, including the removal of part of her colon and small intestine.
  • Gaghan, who took the drug for five months in 1998, has daily pain from the resulting inflammatory bowel disease.

The former co-star of James Marshall, Brian Dennehy, testified at the trial that “It amazes me that something like this could have happened and could have had such a long-range effect on a career that should have topped.”

The premature end of James Marshall’s career, blamed by the actor and musician on Roche Holding AG’s Accutane acne drug, was an “unbelievable tragedy,” Dennehy said in court.

During a videotaped deposition, Rob Reiner offered that Marshall’s career prospects were “limitless” after co-starring in “A Few Good Men.” Reiner told the jurors that the actor “was incredibly gifted…He jumps off the screen and it’s rare. I thought you know, here’s another James Dean. He blew me away.”

Following Dennehy and Reiner, Martin Sheen described the “extraordinary” talent of fellow actor James Marshall whom Sheen had known since birth. Sheen said that Marshall changed when his ulcerative colitis followed his movie successes. “There was a very dramatic change in his physicality,” Sheen said. “He was extremely thin. There was a marked difference in his personality. He was not as gregarious or fun-loving or as social as I remembered him. He was withdrawn in a lot of ways.”

After colon surgery, Sheen said, Marshall “looked very wan, very think and kind of wasted.” James Marshall sought at least $11 million in damages from Roche for what he describes as being a “prisoner in my home” since he as to go to the bathroom 20 times some days and can no longer work as an actor.

After hearing evidence for more than six weeks, a seven-member jury awarded $2 million in damages to one Accutane plaintiff, but, two other plaintiff’s in Greenblatt v. Hoffman-La Roche, including actor James Marshall, received nothing.

The jury verdict is consistent with the results in all prior Accutane trials: Every jury considering the issue has concluded that Accutane can cause IBD and that Roche’s warning was inadequate.


What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects people in many ways. Ulcerative colitis can be a challenge to live with — both physically and emotionally. Colitis symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, abdominal cramps, and an urgent need to have a bowel movement can cause a mix of feelings, including anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, and depression.

If you are living with ulcerative colitis, regular exercise can help you stay healthy, as well as reduce stress, which helps you better cope when colitis flares occur. However, you may have to modify your exercise routine when symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal cramps are active.

There are support groups that can help you cope with the feelings of living with Ulcerative Colitis.

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