Bolton News Accutane

Acne drug linked to tragic suicide

By Amanda Smith , 13th March 2007

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An acne sufferer killed himself by lying in front of a train after being given a controversial drug to treat his condition.

Adam Long, aged 22, had taken a course of Roaccutane and later developed depression.

Campaigners say the drug has been linked to a string of deaths, including at least 15 in Britain, and have called for it to be banned.

They say it has caused depression and suicide in patients since its introduction in 1982.

Roaccutane is usually only prescribed to teenagers with particularly severe acne, but it is highly effective and has been used by approximately 13 million patients world-wide.

Yet the drug's maker, Roche, includes a warning about depression in packets.

Mr Long committed suicide in January last year, leaving a message to parents, Sonia and Stephen on his mobile phone which read: "I love my mum and dad."

The link between schizophrenia and the drug is so strong that coroner Jennifer Leeming said at an inquest into Mr Long's death yesterday that she was reporting the adverse reaction to the local authorities.

Mr Long, of Car Bank Street, Atherton, had a severe reaction to the drug, which he had been taking a few years before his death.

It caused him to suffer serious mental health problems, the inquest heard.

On January 18, 2006, Mr Long lay on the tracks near a bridge at Engine Lane, Atherton, and was hit by a train.

Mr Long's white Fiat Punto car was parked nearby.

Train driver Tony Sulca said: "I thought some debris had been thrown on to the line. I put the brakes on straight away and as we got closer I could see it was a person.

"I sounded the horn several times and there was sufficient time for him to move out of the way. The train came to a halt 200 yards past where the person had been."

The family broke down in tears when Sgt Leslie Peters, of British Transport Police, told the inquest that Mr Long's mobile phone was found on the tracks with "I love my mum and dad" written on the screen.

Mr Long had been treated by consultant psychiatrist Dr Ali Malik, who told Bolton Coroner's Court that Mr Long had become disillusioned and depressed.

He said: "In March, 2004, it was noted that Mr Long drove around for four hours to avoid his birthday celebrations, he refused to drink water from the tap in case it was poisoned and he believed there were hidden cameras in the house and one eyeball was not real and didn't belong to him."

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was prescribed an anti-psychotic drug.

Dr Malik said: "He had not indicated any intention to self-harm, so why he suddenly did that I do not know."

The medical cause of death was head injuries and the jury returned a verdict that he took his own life, while the balance of his mind was disturbed.

Coroner Jennifer Leeming said: "I do not believe as a society that we take mental illness seriously. We do not understand that you can die from mental illness just as you can die from cancer. It is a lesson to us all."

A spokesman for Roche said: "Unfortunately, severe acne can cause some sufferers to become depressed and can also affect their mood and self esteem.

"This is why the information provided with Roaccutane carries a warning that some patient may experience mood changes, including an increase in depression.

"While none of this alters the terrible impact that Adam's suicide has had, it is worth remembering that over the past 20 years, more than 13 million people worldwide have been successfully treated for severe acne using Roaccutane."