In the UK, 10 suicides this year have been linked to a powerful acne drug as that country’s medicines regulator re-opens an inquiry into it after being contacted by patients. The Guardian reports that 12 deaths were recorded in 2019, 10 by suicide, by people who had been prescribed Roaccutane, according to data from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The figure is up from five fatalities the year before and is the highest since records began in 1983. However, the MHRA noted that the reaction may not have occurred that year but only been reported then.
Roaccutane, a brand name of the drug isotretinoin, is used by about 30,000 people in the UK each year. The report says data from NHS Digital shows prescriptions for isotretinoin rose from 34,283 to 69,040 between 2008 and 2018. Also manufactured under the name Accutane, the drug is often credited with yielding miraculous results at clearing people’s skin.
While studies have not found a clear or direct link with increased risk of psychiatric disorders and suicide, side-effects have been noted, the report says. Data from the MHRA’s yellow card reporting scheme – a website for reporting adverse drug reactions – recorded 12 fatalities in 2019, 85 serious incidents and 19 non-serious ones. Since records began there have been 88 deaths.
In 1998, warnings about depression and other psychiatric side-effects were added to the drug’s patient information leaflet. In section four it states that “some people have had thoughts about hurting themselves or ending their own lives (suicidal thoughts), have tried to end their own lives (attempted suicide), or have ended their lives (suicide). These people may not appear to be depressed.” The report says two years ago, a new warning was added to say some people would be affected by problems getting or maintaining an erection and by lower libido.
The report says the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) acknowledges there have been reports of people experiencing mood changes while taking the drug. Its advice says, while there is no evidence these changes were caused by Roaccutane, patients should speak to their doctor immediately if they feel depressed, anxious or have suicidal thoughts.The Guardian report