The Real Dangers of Accutane Are Finally Coming to Light
Accutane, the brand name for the drug Isotretinoin (sold generically as Roaccutane, Amnesteem, Claravis and Sotret), was first marketed by pharmaceutical company Hoffman-LaRoche Inc. in the early 1980's. It was originally intended to be used as a form of chemotherapy, targeted at fighting certain types of cancers, generally those affecting the skin, breasts, bladder, ovaries, kidneys, head and neck.
Not long after its introduction, however, an unexpectedly positive side effect was discovered: Accutane was amazingly effective in the treatment of severe acne. For many people, it was the only product, either topical or ingested, that helped clear their skin, preventing scarring and other lasting effects associated with cystic and nodular acne.
Definitely Not a "Magic Bullet"
Accutane, magic as it may have seemed for the people who had struggled with severe acne for many years, was not without risk. Countless users were afflicted with common side effects such as dry mouth, bone pain and eyesight changes (particularly night vision), but much more severe side effects were soon reported, including:
- Increased incidence of anxiety and depression (some of which led to suicide)
- Edema (swelling of the feet or ankles)
- Markedly increased cholesterol
- Blood clots
- Pancreatitis (a painful and potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas)
- Birth defects
- Premature births
- Peeling skin or open sores on the palms
Unfortunately, even more serious complications have been linked to the drug - since 2009, six personal injury lawsuits, resulting in damages of more than $50 million, have successfully shown that users of Accutane or its generic equivalents developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), including Crohn's Disease (Crohn's) or Ulcerative Colitis (UC), after taking it. Recently uncovered evidence shows that Hoffman-LaRoche Inc. may have known of the link between Accutane and IBD as early as 1984.
Prior to those decisions, however, Hoffman-LaRoche Inc. had voluntarily recalled Accutane and stopped marketing it, supposedly for "economic reasons."
How Does IBD Affect the Body?
Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term that encompasses two serious medical conditions affecting the intestines, Crohn's and UC. These chronic conditions, somewhat similar in nature, affect the functioning of the intestines. The main difference between the two is the location of the damage to the intestine itself.
Crohn's primarily affects an area of the small intestine known as the "terminal ileum." It is considered to be more severe than UC in that it results in damage that can permeate the entire bowel wall. UC, on the other hand, affects the large intestine (colon). The inner lining of the colon swells and develops ulcers, essentially large open sores.
What Are the Symptoms of IBD?
Both UC and Crohn's cause chronic diarrhea and abdominal cramping. During periods that the disease is particularly active, known as "flares", the diarrhea can be particularly severe, causing the sufferer to use the restroom as many as 20 times in a single day. This is not only extremely disruptive to a person's life, it can result in dehydration, low blood pressure and a racing heartbeat. Bloody or mucousy stools are often seen as well.
Other symptoms often occur, including constipation, fever, malnutrition and weight loss. While both forms of IBD are chronic, lifelong conditions, the symptoms can usually be managed with medications or, in extreme cases, surgical intervention.
What Can I Do?
If you or a loved one has developed UC or Crohn's after using Accutane or a generic equivalent, it is important that you consult a personal injury attorney in your area who can act quickly to preserve your rights.