"Many of our cases are young people, many of whom have had their colons removed or their intestines resectioned," says Hook. "That is true of all of our clients – many of whom are young kids who are tethered to a toilet for the rest of their lives."
One of those cases—Andrew McCarrell v Hoffman-LaRoche—Hook actually won twice.
In 1995, Andrew McCarrell was a 23-year-old computer programmer with "moderate" acne. Accutane is supposed to be used only for acute nodular acne, but McCarrell was given a prescription for Accutane nonetheless.
Within a few months, McCarrell developed severe inflammatory bowel disease. His condition eventually destroyed his colon and his quality of life. "Who would trade places with Andy?" says attorney Hook. "He has diarrhea 15 to 20 times a day. Who in their right mind would take any amount of money if that happened to them?"
In 2007, a jury awarded Andrew McCarrell $2.6 million in damages. Hoffman-LaRoche appealed and a new trial was ordered. The second time around, the jury awarded McCarrell $25 million – almost 10 times the amount of the original award.
"The documents clearly indicate that LaRoche was not disclosing to the doctors their own internal conclusions and assessments of the drug regarding inflammatory bowel disease," says Hook. "So the doctors don't know, so they are out there prescribing the drug and not being told about the risks. Accutane certainly has its problems, but the big issue is that the drug company failed to warn properly in terms of what they knew about the drug and inflammatory bowel disease."
At the time McCarrell was given the Accutane prescription, the label indicated only that "the drug was temporally associated with IBD," says Hook.
By 2000, the warning was changed to include a warning about inflammatory bowel disease. "But both of those warnings are inadequate," says Hook. "The company's own documents concluded a cause and effect relationship, which is more than a mere association. "
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Last year, Hoffman-LaRoche quit selling Accutane, but the label hasn't changed to Hook's satisfaction and there are now three generic versions of Accutane, available on the market -- Amnesteem, Claravis and Sotret.
"I will continue to try these cases as long as I need to. I hope logic kicks in and we are able to resolve this at some point in time --- but there is nothing on the horizon," says Hook.
Mike Hook is a name partner in the firm of Hook & Bolton. He is a graduate of the Florida State University (JD1980) and the University of South Florida (BA 1977) His firm focuses on personal injury law, wrongful death Law and products liability law.