Drug Agency to meet with relatives of acne patients
The Medicines Control Agency, the body that licenses drugs in Britain,
has agreed to meet representatives of an action group dedicated to helping
victims of an acne medication linked to patient suicide.
Dr June Raine, director of the post-licensing division of the MCA, will
hold talks with a man whose son killed himself after taking Roaccutane
and a patient whose lips swelled, burst and became permanently infected
after taking the drug. Other members of the 2,000-strong Roaccutane Action
Group have suffered problems with joints and eyes, as well as depression
The action group is hailing the meeting as an important step in its campaign
to have the drug, made by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, banned
until further tests can be held to establish if it is dangerous. Roaccutane,
a vitamin A-based drug that was given a licence in the UK in 1983, has
worked for millions of acne sufferers, but for thousands of others it
has caused serious long-term side-effects.
It has been linked to 138 suicides and many more attempts worldwide. Under
licensing restrictions, its packaging must warn of the possibility of
suicide and "suicide ideation" but Roche denies there is any evidence
it causes some users to kill themselves. In America, where the drug is
called Accutane, Roche is being sued for $70m (£48m) by the family of
a 15-year-old boy who flew a plane into a skyscraper in Tampa, Florida,
after taking the medication.
The meeting between the British group and the MCA will take place in London
on 17 May. After months of correspondence, Dr Raine wrote to David Chow,
the chairman of the UK action group, and said: "We share your view that
the safe use of Roaccutane is a critically important issue. I am fully
aware of the serious nature of the issues you raise." An MCA spokesman
said Dr Raine thought a meeting was the best way to hear the group's concerns.
She will meet Mr Chow, whose lips have deteriorated so badly he can no
longer work, Dr Arthur Chow, a retired consultant anaesthetist who is
Mr Chow's father, and chairman of the Irish Roaccutane Action Group.
"We see this as a major step forward," David Chow said. "Many members
were told by doctors that the side-effects would resolve when the course
of Roaccutane was finished. There is now the hope that the medical establishment
will acknowledge that certain patients, who cannot be identified pre-treatment,
will suffer severe long-term physical and mental side-effects." The group
will also raise concerns over the prescribing of the drug outside its
licensing limitations. It was licensed for use only on severe cases of
acne, but The Independent disclosed last week that dermatologists were
prescribing it across the country for use on mild forms of the condition.