ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - The maker of a popular treatment for severe acne will get a new trial Tuesday, 10 months after the New Jersey Appellate Division struck down a $2.6 million verdict against it.

Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc., maker of Accutane, is alleged to have caused inflammatory bowel disease in some of the drug's users in a multi-district litigation proceeding in Atlantic County Superior Court. Andrew McCarrell was awarded $2.6 million in his lawsuit in 2007.

The American Tort Reform Foundation has listed Atlantic County as a Judicial Hellhole every year since 2007 in its annual report. This year, the ATRF listed it at No. 4, citing the Accutane mass tort as a reason Hoffman-LaRoche discontinued Accutane.

McCarrell had to have his colon removed. Judge Carol Higbee should have allowed the company to present usage data and related evidence, the Appellate Division said.

"The consequence of that restriction was, unfortunately, an imbalanced presentation that had the capacity to produce an unjust outcome," the Appellate Division decision says.

"This error is of such a pivotal nature that the judgment in favor of plaintiff must be vacated, and a new trial conducted."

The New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance said in June that customers could thank plaintiffs attorneys for Accutane being made unavailable.

"Thanks to an aggressive, self-interested campaign by personal injury lawyers, an important medical breakthrough deemed safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that helped more than 13 million patients treat severe acne was voluntarily removed from the market today by the manufacturer," NLRA executive director Marcus Rayner said.

"This leaves millions of patients around the world with fewer treatment options. New Jersey companies lead the world in discovering medical innovations like Accutane, which have improved the quality of life of millions. But the high cost of frivolous lawsuits - like the Accutane cases being tried in New Jersey - threatens medical progress."

The recent Wyeth v. Levine U.S. Supreme Court decision will also be applied to the new trial. It said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's oversight of drug labeling doesn't prevent state-level actions against drug companies.

The trial will be broadcast online by Courtroom View Network.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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