Roche Settles Claims Over Genentech's Raptiva Psoriasis Drug, Lawyer Says
By Laurence Viele Davidson and Jef Feeley – Jan 24, 2012 8:58 AM ET
Roche Holdings AG (ROG) settled lawsuits claiming its Raptiva psoriasis drug caused infections, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The lawyer, Mark Lanier, wouldn’t disclose the terms of the settlement today. Genentech withdrew the medication from the market almost three years ago.
Genentech, a unit of Basel, Switzerland-based drugmaker Roche, was sued in state court in California over allegations that Raptiva caused Stephen Johnson’s death. The 46-year-old Louisiana businessman took the drug to treat a skin condition. That trial had been set to begin this month and was postponed last week to June, according to the case docket.
The Johnson family was seeking $15 million in compensatory damages along with “several hundred million dollars” in punitive damages, according to plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Nadine O’Campo, a spokeswoman for South San Francisco, California-based Genentech, couldn’t be reached immediately before regular business hours to comment on any settlement.
Genentech began taking Raptiva off the U.S. and European markets in April 2009 after three psoriasis patients were diagnosed with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML, a rare, incurable brain infection. The month before the withdrawal, Roche completed a $46.8 billion buyout of the biotech company.
Psoriasis is a disease that leaves sufferers with red, itchy skin lesions, lawyers for Johnson’s family said in court filings. Johnson had taken the drug for almost five years before his death in January 2009, according to the filings.
Genentech officials estimated in 2009 that about 2,000 U.S. patients were taking the drug when the company began pulling it from shelves. The medication, which generated $108 million in sales in 2008, had been used by an estimated 46,000 patients worldwide. The psoriasis treatment was approved for sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2003.
The case is Johnson v. Genentech Inc., RG 10-494957, California Superior Court, Alameda County (Oakland).
–Andrew Dunn, Charles Carter
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