Legal team sues drug maker Hoffmann-La Roche Limited over popular acne medicine

Feb 04, 2013, 04:00 ET from HARRISON PENSA LLP

LONDON, ON, Feb. 4, 2013 /CNW/ - When Jennifer Twamley was prescribed Accutane at 17 to control her acne, little did she know the long-term impact the drug would have on her life.

Twamley, 33, now suffers from Ulcerative Colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which lawyers Barb Legate of Legate & Associates and Dave Williams of Harrison Pensa say is a side effect of Accutane.

Twamley has undergone two surgeries, including removal of her colon. "It's been devastating," says Twamley, whose career and lifestyle have been drastically curtailed. "I wish I had never taken that drug. Having a chronic illness is isolating."

Twamley, a television producer, is suing drug maker Hoffmann-La Roche over Accutane in what is known as a mass tort, one of the first in Canada involving the acne drug. The lawsuit was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

A mass tort is a group of lawsuits involving individuals who share similar complaints as a result of their experiences with a drug or defective product. Mass torts are common in the United States, where Roche has already been successfully sued for millions of dollars in connection with the manufacture and sale of Accutane.  Roche stopped selling Accutane in the United States in 2009 for business reasons, but the drug is still sold in Canada.

Legate says Accutane has destructive side effects that many Canadians weren't warned about. "We believe there are thousands of victims in Canada who have been hurt by Accutane. We are seeking justice for them." Williams adds, "Studies in the U.S. have found that Accutane is linked to inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's disease."

"The sad thing is that many people who have developed a disease like colitis or Crohn's don't realize that a common drug they were prescribed as a teenager for their acne could be the likely cause. It has had harsh consequences," he added.

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, acne affects nearly 20% or 5.6 million Canadians. More than 80% of acne sufferers are between the ages of 12 and 24.

The lawyers say the Twamley case is being put forward as the face of the Accutane lawsuit and a test case for more than a dozen similar cases they are preparing to file against the company. Legate says, "This case will cast a light on the problem and we expect many other victims to come forward."

The lawsuit claims that that Hoffmann-La Roche was negligent because it failed to warn the public that the drug could cause inflammatory bowel disease.

Williams adds, "Accutane affects each person differently, so the harm and damages they suffer varies widely. By choosing to bring a mass tort, we believe the victims are well served as their medical damages can be properly assessed on an individual basis."

Legate & Associates is a London, Ontario-based personal injury law firm that serves southwestern Ontario.

Harrison Pensa is a full-service, 55-lawyer firm servicing southwestern, Ont., with offices in London and Toronto.

Download videos for broadcast purposes:

Lawsuit Overview | MP4 | 332MB  

Jennifer's Story | MP4 | 415MB

Legal Perspective | MP4 | 466MB  


Video with caption: "Legate & Associates and Harrison Pensa launch mass tort over acne drug Accutane". Video available at: