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Accutane Acne Drug Maker Sued Over Florida Suicide
April 16, 2002 03:20 PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - The family of a Florida teen-ager who flew a stolen plane into a Tampa office tower filed a $70 million wrongful death lawsuit against drug maker Hoffman-La Roche on Tuesday, alleging the company's Accutane acne medicine caused the boy to commit suicide.

Charles Bishop, 15, killed himself on Jan. 5 when he crashed the single-engine Cessna into the 28th floor of the 42-story Bank of America building, an incident that echoed the Sept. 11 assaults on New York and Washington. He left a note expressing sympathy for Islamic militant Osama bin Laden.

The lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, said Hoffman-La Roche, the Nutley, New Jersey-based U.S unit of Accutane manufacturer Roche Holding, negligently made an unsafe product that can cause psychosis, depression and suicide and failed to warn patients about side effects.

"Our suit alleges that Hoffman-La Roche has known that this drug causes spontaneous suicide and depression but they have refused to accept responsibility," said attorney Michael Ryan, who represents Julia Bishop, the boy's mother.

Hoffman-La Roche said it had not seen the lawsuit and would not comment on specific litigation. But it said there was no scientific basis to link Accutane with depression or suicide.

A coroner's report said Charles Bishop had no alcohol or drugs in his system when he died. Medical examiners tested for Accutane after police found a prescription for the medication in Bishop's home, but found no trace of it.

The lawsuit alleged Accutane caused Bishop to suffer a severe psychotic break with reality that resulted in his death.

Bishop's attorneys said international health agencies have recorded more than 500 reports of suicides, attempted suicide and "suicidal ideation" from Accutane, the fourth highest record of adverse drug reactions among more than 500,000 prescription medications sold in the United States.

"His friends, his teachers, his flight instructors say there were no warning signs," Ryan said, adding he hoped the company would pull the drug from the market.

An article in the March-April 2001 issue of FDA Consumer, a magazine published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Accutane was the most powerful medicine developed for problem acne. But it noted that "while Accutane may help lift psychosocial distress such as embarrassment, evidence suggests that it may actually cause serious psychiatric disorders in some people."

Hoffman-La Roche spokeswoman Carolyn Glynn said more than 13 million people had safely used Accutane since 1982.

She said the company had worked with the FDA and experts to examine allegations of links between Accutane and suicide.

"It's our conclusion, along with the outside experts and the FDA, that there is no scientific basis that links Accutane with depression or suicide," Glynn said.

Last Thursday a jury in Muskogee, Oklahoma, rejected a woman's claim that Accutane caused her to suffer depression.

Carla Gray of Ada, Oklahoma, had sought $3 million in compensatory damages from Hoffmann-La Roche.

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