Ten suicides this year have been linked to a potent acne drug as the drug regulator reopens an investigation after being contacted by patients.
Twelve deaths were recorded in 2019, including 10 by suicide, by people who had been prescribed Roaccutane, according to data from the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The figure is up from the five deaths the previous year and is the highest since records began in 1983. However, the MHRA noted that the reaction may not have occurred that year. but was not reported until then.
This year, Channel 4 reported the death of Annabel Wright, with her parents Helen and Simon blaming the drug for her death, although the exact cause remains to be confirmed.
In 2017, Luke Reeves’ parents said they believed their son’s death was related to Roaccutane. A coroner has ruled that Luke, who was found dead in his bedroom, committed suicide by overdosing on drugs in April 2017.
Robert Reeves, 50, told the Essex Coroner’s Court hearing that Luke’s personality had changed completely.
In October 2012, Jack Bowlby committed suicide, aged 16. His parents have expressed the same concerns as Luke Reeves’. At the coroner’s inquest, an expert speculated that Jack would still be alive if he hadn’t taken the drug.
Roaccutane, a brand name of the drug isotretinoin, is used by around 30,000 people in the UK each year. NHS Digital data shows isotretinoin prescriptions increased from 34,283 to 69,040 between 2008 and 2018.
Also manufactured under the name Accutane, the drug is often credited with having shown miraculous results in cleaning people’s skin.
Although studies have not found a clear or direct link with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders and suicide, side effects have been noted.
Data from the MHRA’s yellow card reporting system – a website for reporting adverse drug reactions – recorded 12 deaths in 2019, 85 serious incidents and 19 non-serious. Since the recording began, there have been 88 deaths.
“We were never told that these random suicidal urges could come out of nowhere and be overwhelming,” said Helen Wright.
In 1998, warnings about depression and other psychiatric side effects were added to the drug’s patient information leaflet. In section four, it is stated that “some people have thought about harming themselves or ending their own life (suicidal thoughts), have tried to end their own lives (attempted suicide) or have ended their lives. their days (suicide). These people may not appear depressed.
Two years ago, a new warning was added saying that some people would be affected by erection or maintenance problems and low libido.
The MHRA governs the safety of the drug. He said his reporting system was “not evidence of a side effect, but a journalist’s suspicion that the drug could be the cause.”
He said the safety of isotretinoin was under continuous review in the UK and across Europe. The Isotretinoin Expert Working Group is reconvening and will review all available data regarding suicide risk, considering whether further regulatory action is needed.
The National Institute for Health and Excellence in Care (Nice) plans to publish advice on all acne treatments by 2021 and said it still takes drug safety into account in its guidelines .
In its advice on the options available for acne treatment, the NHS says the drug is only recommended for severe cases that have not responded to other treatments.
The NHS acknowledges that there have been reports of people experiencing mood swings while taking the drug. His review says that while there is no evidence that these changes were caused by Roaccutane, patients should speak to their doctor immediately if they feel depressed, anxious, or have thoughts of suicide.
A survivor group linked to the drug and its side effects on Facebook has more than 8,000 members.
In 2004, the Guardian reported that a promising medical student committed suicide four weeks after being prescribed an acne medication. Jon Medland, 22, was in his final year of his medical degree at the University of Manchester when he committed suicide in his student accommodation at the beginning of January 13 of this year.
Roche said millions of patients take isotretinoin, but “like most drugs, it can have side effects.”
“We therefore recommend that it be prescribed with care, with particular regard to any history of depression, that patients know what to expect when taking it, and that they are closely monitored for it. make sure they get the care they need. “
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis helpline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines are available at www.befrienders.org.