Healed by the 'bazooka drug'
The drug company denies a link to suicides
By Tom Geoghegan BBC News Online
Campaigners have stepped up their fight to ban the acne drug Roaccutane
but pharmaceutical company Roche, which makes the drug, insists it is
safe. BBC News Online's Tom Geoghegan tells of his personal experience
of taking the medication.
My GP called it the "bazooka treatment". This was the heavy duty stuff
after years of failed attempts at clearing up my skin using off-the-shelf
spot creams. He was certainly right about its effectiveness - Roaccutane
pulverised my acne into submission after six months. Friends were stunned
at the difference, although I only finished the course a fortnight ago
so the jury is still out. The drug removes acne - itself a big source
of depression to many youngsters But there was a cost. I had to endure
some unpleasant side effects along the way - mild depression, anxiety,
low confidence, aversion to bright lights, sore eyes, heavy headedness.
These began at a very low level, hardly apparent to me at all. But as
the dosage increased, then so did the severity of the effects and I soon
linked my mood change to the tablets. So I contacted my dermatologist
to tell him I wanted to reduce the intake for my final few weeks, because
it was becoming too much. Once the dosage came down, the symptoms immediately
eased, with the help of some eye-drops, and I finished the course. 'Hysteria'
I was never near the levels of depression reportedly experienced by some
other users. But for someone who regarded himself as quite a confident
person, it came as a shock to discover myself to be socially awkward for
a little while.
My dermatologist, who eventually prescribed the drug to me, told me about
the physical side effects, but not the psychological. I had blood tests
to check my liver was up to it and I was given special cream to soothe
the dry skin. Although he didn't tell me about the other risks, I was
not ignorant of them. There certainly needs to be better warnings about
the risk of depression There were warnings with the tablets about rare
cases of suicide, and I read on the internet about controversy in the
US. Initially I dismissed it as hysteria - the drug was being blamed for
unfortunate but common depression among acne-prone kids.
But then I started to recognise the warnings as the kind of symptoms I
was experiencing, although at low levels. I don't blame the doctors for
the discomfort. I was grateful to them for taking my acne seriously and
getting rid of something that was an irritation. Mood monitoring But there
needs to be better warnings about the risk of depression - not everyone
reads the advice on the packet, or has access to the internet.
There should also be close monitoring of users, not just in terms of blood
tests, but also in terms of moods, especially if dosage is increasing.
Not everyone suffers in the same way - I know some who have had the same
side effects as me and others who have only had the dry skin. But what
campaigners should not forget is that the drug removes acne - itself a
big source of severe depression to many youngsters.