Accutane and Ulcerative Colitis

Accutane, prescribed to treat serious nodular acne, has been linked with the development of several gastrointestinal disorders among these being ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis involves the inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract as well as ulcers primarily located in the large intestine and the rectum. The condition usually leads to severe pain as well as diarrhea and like other IBDs, can become very disabling and even life-threatening. While some individuals experience symptoms of ulcerative colitis years after their exposure to Accutane, some develop the disease almost immediately. Fortunately, although there is not a cure, doctors have been able to uncover several treatments for the disease.

Legal Consequences

Roche Pharmaceuticals, the company which engineered and marketed Accutane, has received approximately 5,000 personal injury claims due to the gastrointestinal disorders which the drug has been known to cause. In one particular case, a woman developed ulcerative colitis and filed a claim against Roche stating that the company did not make the side effects of the drug known. She received $10.5 million from the company but eventually had to have her colon removed due to the disease and continues to battle severe, chronic diarrhea. In another instance, in 2010, a man won a suit for $25.16 million dollars against the company. He had also developed the disease and needed to undergo multiple surgeries, including the removal of his colon. It was again determined that the side effects of the drug were not cited by the company.

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

There are four different classifications of ulcerative colitis, based on where the disease is located in the body. Each subtype of the disease has many of its own symptoms which allow for specific diagnosing. Ulcerative proctotis, which is solely located in the rectum, typically has symptoms such as rectal pain and bleeding. In left-sided colitis, the inflammation of the rectum stretches up the left side into the colon with symptoms being weight loss as well as bleeding and abdominal pain. The third type of ulcerative colitis is pancolitis which affects the colon as a whole. This type usually causes blood-tinged diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal pain as well as night sweats. The last and most dangerous form of the disease is fulminant colitis, which, like pancolitis, affects the entire colon. Fulminant colitis causes extreme distension of the colon which can lead to rupturing thereby releasing toxins into the body. Symptoms of this are usually severe pain and diarrhea as well as occasionally dehydration and weight loss.


There are several treatment therapies for ulcerative colitis although, unfortunately, there is yet no known cure. These include anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids, immune system suppressors such as mercaptopurine, laxatives, iron supplements and in extreme cases, surgery such as proctocolectomy in which the entire colon and rectum are removed.

Dealing with Ulcerative Colitis

If you develop any signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis or any other gastrointestinal disease after taking Accutane, make sure to contact your doctor for an exam to determine whether you have indeed developed a disease. This is critical as ulcerative colitis, if left untreated, can become life-threatening and eventually fatal. It has been known to lead to the rupturing of the colon as well as hemorrhaging. The disease can also be quite painful due to the inflammation of the tissue and the severe diarrhea that most patients experience.

If you believe that you or a family member who has taken Accutane has developed ulcerative colitis or another form of IBD, please contact PA medical malpractice lawyers as you may want to seek compensation for medical expenses as well as personal injury.

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