It may still be possible to file for damages from acne treatment medication that has not been on the shelf for four years.
Accutane was the “wonder” drug that proved to efficacious in treating severe and cystic acne that did not respond to other treatments. However, even when the Food and Drug Administration approved the medication in 1982, it was known to have teratogenic effects, which meant it carried a high risk of causing birth defects in expectant mothers. Pregnant women are prohibited from taking the medication at all.
Despite this restriction and black box warning, Accutane was still the subject of more than 7,000 lawsuits, mostly because of increasing suicidality and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in patients. It became so contentious that Accutane was recalled by manufacturer Hoffman-La Roche in 2009, although generic brands are still available.
But if Hoffman-La Roch hoped to stem the tide of lawsuits for Accutane-related injuries by the recall, it may be disappointed. The statute of limitations for products liability in the US typically ranges from 1 to 10 years, depending on the state, but it will also depend on other factors.
A case in New Jersey, where the statute of limitations is 2 years, involved a young girl who was first prescribed a course of Accutane at 12 years old in 1997, and again in 2000. By then, the plaintiff Kamie S. Kendall, had developed ulcerative colitis, a form of IBS which she had not known had been caused by Accutane. She found out the connection in 2004 and filed suit in 2005. She was awarded $80,000 in medical expenses plus $10.5 million in damages.
Hoffman-La Roche appealed the decision on the grounds that the statute of limitations had run out. When the case reached the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2012, the judges ruled that the statute of limitations counted from when the plaintiff became aware of the connection, which was in 2004, and not when she was actually taking the medication, the latest of which was 2000.
If you or a family member has IBS and had taken Accutane in the past, there may be a connection. Consult with a dangerous drugs lawyer in your state and find out if you are eligible to file a products liability case against Hoffman-La Roche.