South Manchester Reporter

Wednesday, 20th October 2004

THE family of a trainee doctor who hanged himself have blamed his death on a powerful anti-acne drug.

Manchester University student Jon Medland, 22, had a bright future ahead of him after showing great promise as a young doctor in his final-year studies.

But earlier this year, just three weeks after going on the anti-acne drug Roaccutane to clear up his spots, the "bubbly" trainee doctor became depressed and talked of killing himself. In a bid to stop feeling depressed he quit taking the drug but four days later he hanged himself in student accommodation in Withington. Coroner Leonard Gorodkin told an inquest in Manchester there was a possible link between the suicide and the powerful acne drug Roaccutane.

He has now called for more research into the drug - which has been linked to more than 100 suicides - and clearer warnings about its dangers. Mr Gorodkin said there was no proof that Jon, of Ince Close, Withington, had committeed suicide because of the effects of Roaccutane.

But he added: "It's possible the way Jon acted leading up to his death that there was an adverse reaction to the drug - but I cannot say it for certain. Jon, a straight-A student, had researched the drug on the internet and knew all about the side-effects. But his family and friends say his personality began to change dramatically just after starting a six-week GP placement at a surgery in Shrewsbury last December.

Jon started taking the drug to clear up spots on his face and back. But he soon found himself unable to sleep, eat or concentrate on his work, and became so depressed that he threatened to commit suicide. Flatmates living with the Devon-born student told how they saw a dramatic change in the trainee doctor, described by his girlfriend of 12 months as "bubbly, easy-going, friendly and charming".

Within a couple of weeks on the drug, Jon was telling his flatmates that he wanted to throw himself under a bus, off the North Stand at a Manchester United match, slash his main artery and he even showed one a suicide note before flushing it down the toilet. His desperately-worried family convinced Jon to stop taking the tablets and go and see a GP for help after he confessed that he'd harmed himself with a knife. The next day, Jon was given anti-depressants by a GP, but that night he penned a suicide note to say sorry and goodbye to his parents before hanging himself from the back of a wardrobe door with his belt.

The news stunned his close-knit family, who had been planning to make a surprise trip to Manchester that day, before they got a call from the police on January 13 this year. His father Jonathan Medland, 47, said: "How many other hundreds of deaths have happened because this drug is available?" The inquest heard how Jon had seen a consultant dermatologist at Withington Hospital to request the drug, as other anti-biotics had failed to clear up the spots which made him feel self-conscious when he was dealing with patients. His consultant Dr Haydn Muston warned him the drug could cause permanent depression.

Several people from Greater Manchester are currently taking legal action against the drug manufacturer Roche over adverse reactions to the drug. A Roche spokeswoman said: "We were very saddened to hear of Jon's suicide. Information provided with Roaccutane carries a warning that some patients may experience mood changes, including an increase or decrease in depression." Verdict: suicide.