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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Family sues drug maker over plane suicide
Plane tail hangs out of Florida skyscraper
The pilot 'expressed sympathy' for Osama Bin Laden
Relatives of a 15-year-old boy who deliberately crashed a plane into a Florida skyscraper are suing the manufacturers of an acne drug which they claim caused him to commit suicide.

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against drugs company Hoffman-La Roche, claiming that its product Accutane can cause depression and suicide.

Our suit alleges that Hoffman-La Roche has known that this drug causes spontaneous suicide and depression but they have refused to accept responsibility

Lawyer Michael Ryan
The company denies the claim, however, and a US court last week dismissed a previous lawsuit by a woman who said Accutane had made her depressed.

Charles Bishop, a student pilot, died instantly when he crashed a single engine Cessna into the 28th floor of the Bank of America building in Tampa.

The incident occurred only a few months after the 11 September suicide attacks and police said Bishop was carrying a suicide note "expressing sympathy" for al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The lawsuit claims that Hoffman-La Roche made a faulty product that instigates symptoms of depression, psychosis and suicidal behaviour in some patients - but failed to warn that the drug had potentially fatal side-effects.

Bishop's family is seeking $70 million in damages.

Powerful drug

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

School photo of young pilot Charles Bishop
Bishop: "no warning signs"

"His friends, his teachers, his flight instructors say there were no warning signs."

At the time of his death, classmates and teachers at his local school described him as a "loner", but said that he was liked and respected by his contemporaries.

A coroner's report on Bishop revealed he had none of the acne drug in his system, although the police found a prescription for Accutane in his room.

Potent remedy

Accutane is one of the most powerful drugs formulated for combating acne on the market in the US.

The Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research, a division of the US Food and Drug Administration, warned in a recent article that Accutane "may cause depression, and more rarely other psychiatric disorders", and said that "further evaluation may be necessary".

But Hoffman-La Roche has consistently denied the claim, saying there was no proof that the drug caused psychological trauma.

"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," spokeswoman Carolyn Glynn told Reuters.

See also:

07 Jan 02 | Americas
Plane crash boy 'shunned others'
06 Jan 02 | Americas
In pictures: Skyscraper plane crash
19 Nov 98 | Health
Acne drug in suicide claim
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