Acne drug misery

Manchester Evening News

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30 December 2002

THE country's leading skin specialist today called for a government inquiry into a controversial acne drug after patients told how it had ruined their lives. Dr Anthony Chu, president of the UK Acne Support Group, is concerned about the number of young people being prescribed Roaccutane for mild acne when it has only been licensed for use on severe forms of the condition. He thinks the drug - which has been claimed to be linked to more than 100 suicides worldwide - can cause depression in patients. Dr Chu, a consultant dermatologist at Hammersmith Hospital in London, said: "I think some sort of government or independent commission looking into the prescribing of Roaccutane needs to be created. If there was an alternative then Roaccutane would be taken off the market. I think you can get depression off the drug, although I still think it is a very rare event. "I would say there is a causal relationship between the two, but it is almost scientifically impossible to prove." Three people in Greater manchester are currently taking legal action, while at least another four are considering suing the drug's manufacturer, Roche. They all want to see the drug banned. Luke Hassett, from Sale, claims he developed paranoid schizophrenia after being given Roaccutane and is now suing the hospital involved and the dermatologist who prescribed him the drug. Luke's mum Muriel said: "My son was nearly killed. We want to make those people responsible accountable for what they have done." Roche argues that there is no proven causal link between Roaccutane and psychiatric effects, but the company cites the fact that psychiatric "events" have occurred as the reason for putting depression and suicide warnings on its labels. It agrees that the drug should not be prescribed to pregnant women and very young children. A spokesman for Roche said: "Based on clinical data, there is no proven relationship between Roaccutane and psychiatric effects and no proposed biological mechanism to explain a risk for psychiatric conditions. "Reported events are those that occurred either during therapy with Roaccutane or after therapy completion, and the reports do not imply that the therapy caused the depression or suicide." Roche says it takes issues of safety "very seriously" and is attempting to make doctors and patients more aware of the risks of depression, suicide attempts and suicide in patients taking Roaccutane. Research shows there to be a link between acne and depression, and that teenagers and young adults are the people most likely to suffer from acne.