A Deadly Side Effect of Accutane
Lance Andrews | December 25th, 2011
Many physicians received a letter in February 1998, sent to them directly by Roche Laboratories, the company that produced the popular prescription acne treatment. In the letter, Roche warned doctors that the drug had been definitively linked to “depression” and even suicide. By 1998 the medicine had already been on the market in the United States for more than 15 years, and had received abundant praise and profits for its acne-clearing abilities.
As stated in the letter from Roche: “Accutane may cause depression, psychosis and, rarely, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide.”
Depression Linked to Accutane since 1985
The information in the letter from Roche did not come as a surprise. It was proven in 1985 that depression was a possible side effect of Accutane consumption, and the drug’s warning label had contained a brief mention of this fact ever since. Other known side effects associated with Accutane can have a detrimental effect on the gastrointestinal system, and they include Accutane ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and Accutane inflammatory bowel disease.
By 1998, the FDA had already established a definitive link between Accutane use and depression, as evidenced by hundreds of patient complaints filed with the agency. It was evident that doctors and patients alike needed a more strongly worded warning label.
Accutane Depression Under Scrutiny again in 2000
Once again the FDA made known the link between depression and Accutane, this time following an important meeting in September 2000. The conference was held for the FDA’s Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drug Advisory Committee, and authorities announced that the medication had been affiliated with 147 suicides and depression-induced hospital stays between 1982 and 2000. Roche challenged these claims, saying that a higher suicide rate would be anticipated in the cohort study.
In fighting these allegations of Accutane depression and suicide, Roche highlighted an alarming fact: Accutane was usually prescribed to teenagers, who are more likely to be psychologically sensitive than the general population. In particular, teenagers are frequently susceptible to serious depression, and in fact suicide is the number three cause of death among teens, coming in behind car accidents and homicide. It has been determined that it can magnify existing psychological troubles.
Roche Laboratories, a Swiss company, defended its medication but ultimately decided to pull the drug from the US market in June 2009. During the recall, no mention was made of Accutane depression or any of the other widely known Accutane side effects. By that point it was not necessary to publicize them further. Since its debut, more than 13 million prescriptions had been sold, and thousands of people had been subjected to serious side effects. Some of them, including death, were permanent.
Presently, thousands of lawsuits are underway across the United States.
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