Accutane: One lawsuit settled, thousands filed

Prescription bottles

Accutane is no longer on the market as a prescription, but the drug is still available. Image from Flickr.

Roche Laboratories, makers of Accutane, have settled a lawsuit in Illinois before it reached court. Accutane has been implicated in more than 1,000 lawsuits, claiming side effects ranging from IBS to severe depression. Roche Laboratories has spent more than its fair share on payday cash to settle lawsuits – but what is the fate of Accutane?

Accutane used to treat acne

Accutane, as a name-brand drug, is no longer on the market. However, generic versions of the drug as well as similar drugs under other brand names are still on the market. These drugs reduce the oil released by glands under the skin. In general, Accutane and similar drugs were intended for use as a last-resort drug, when other acne medication had not worked. Other Accutane-like drugs include Claravis, Sotret, Amnesteem and any generic isotretinoin.

Accutane’s side effects

Because of the severe side effects associated with Accutane and similar drugs, it is offered only under very severe restrictions. Before these restrictions were put in place, though, Accutane was generally prescribed by a doctor without unusual amounts of counseling or caution to the patient. Accutane and similar drugs can cause depression, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, severe birth defects and liver damage. The drugs can also cause a skin condition where the skin begins to separate from the body or “burn” from the inside out.

Accutane lawsuits

Since Accutane was first put on the market, Roche Laboratories has had more than 1,000 lawsuits filed against the company. Most of these lawsuits are based on the argument that Roche Laboratories and/or the prescribing doctors did not sufficiently warn patients of the side effects of Accutane. To date, six Accutane lawsuits have gone to trial, and Roche has lost all of them. Verdicts against the drugmaker have cost more than $56 million. Accutane has been on the market since the early 1980s, and more than 16 million people have taken the drug.

Accutane still on the market

Despite the severe side effects, Accutane and other isotretinoin drugs are still on the market. A program called iPLEDGE requires extensive counseling for any patient taking the drug. The patient must also agree to use two forms of birth control while taking the drug and sign documents indicating that they understand the dangers associated with taking Accutane.

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