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Roche Raptiva Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy Trial to Proceed

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According to Roche Holdings AG (ROG) which denied liability in its Raptiva psoriasis drug causing lethal infections, said it is proceeding to the first trial of the claims in June.

The trial in this matter is set to begin on June 4, 2012.

Genentech the manufacturer of Raptiva, was sued in state court in California over allegations that Raptiva caused 46- year-old Louisiana businessman’s death.

Stephen Johnson took the drug to treat a skin condition called psoriasis. According to plaintiffs’ lawyers, the Johnson family is seeking $15 million in compensatory damages along with “several hundred million dollars” in punitive damages.

Genentech discontinued Raptiva sales in 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, Basel, Switzerland-based Roche completed a $46.8 billion buyout of the biotech company.

Psoriasis Skin Lesions

Psoriasis is a disease that leaves sufferers with red, itchy skin lesions. 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).