Man found hanged had been using acne drug - Father calls for independent inquiry into side-effects

16/07/1998

By EAMONN HOLMES

A young Dublin man who hanged himself had been using the anti-acne drug Roaccutane, Dublin City Coroner's Court heard yesterday. Mr Liam Eamonn Grant (20), of Mount Alton Court, Templeogue, Dublin, was found hanging from a tree at Cruagh Road, Rathfarnham, on June 15th, 1997.

He was pronounced dead at the Meath Hospital. A post-mortem showed death was due to hanging. A jury of four men and two women returned a verdict of death by suicide and added the rider that further research into the drug and its side-effects should be carried out and that special emphasis should be placed on what patients were told. The inquest was told the guidelines on the use of the drug had recently been updated with special emphasis on potential side-effects such as depression, psychotic symptoms and, rarely, suicide attempts and suicide.

Outside the court, the man's father, Mr Liam Grant called for an independent international inquiry. He said since his son's death 32 people who were using the drug had contacted him and complained of symptoms of depression and thoughts of suicide.

Ten of these were Irish. Earlier, Mr Grant told the hearing they had returned from a visit to Tipperary and found a suicide note in his son's bedroom. It said he had no friends and the turn-out at the funeral would show this.

He described his son, a second-year engineering student at UCD, as an outgoing young man with plenty of friends in college and where the family lived. His son played guitar and drums and performed with two bands. He intended to take a sound engineering course at Bolton Street College as there were good prospects for employment in that area. Everything pointed to a young man planning for the future.

But Mr Grant said there had been some changes in his son after he began to take Roaccutane. He became withdrawn and kept a lot to his bedroom. He also complained his eyes were sensitive to light. After Liam's death he learned he had been asking his younger brother to tell friends he wasn't home if they called. Dr Pamela Mangal, the family doctor, said Liam first complained to her of acne in November 1997.

She prescribed a course of treatment. When Liam attended her in January he asked for Roaccutane and she referred him to a dermatologist. She added he showed no signs of depression over his acne. "He was an outgoing young lad. He had a few spots on his face. He played in a band and he had girlfriends. He was an attractive young man who wanted this problem cleared up," she said. Dr Gillian Murphy, a consultant dermatologist, said Liam presented her with a five-year history of acne and she prescribed Roaccutane at 60mgs daily. Before treatment commenced he had a full set of blood tests and was given a leaflet on the drug to read.

She met him twice during the treatment and on the last occasion he was pleased with the results of the treatment. He gave no indication of any depression and she was shocked to hear of his death. She added that in treating up to 4,000 patients with the drug since 1982 only one young man complained of depression and a second said he was irritable and moody at home. "It is impossible to know if Roaccutane contributed to Liam's suicide," she said. T

he Coroner, Dr Brian Farrell, told the jury the guidelines had been changed after consultation between the Irish Medicines Board and Roche Pharmaceuticals which manufactures the drug. The company had written to doctors on May 23rd last bringing the change to their attention. Dr Farrell also commended Mr Grant for his research work on the drug since his son's death and suggested it might be brought to the attention of the Irish Medicines Board and the company.