Accutane has been touted as a miracle drug for acne due to the amazing results some people have experienced, particularly those with scarring acne. However, a recent study has found that there is an increased risk in developing inflammatory bowel disease in people who have taken the drug. Accutane has a long and controversial past and some wonder--will this news finally take it off the market?
Accutane has been used by over 13 million people and until recently, had been a 200 million dollar money maker for Roche Pharmaceuticals. However, Accutane also has a significant history of side effects ranging from depression and suicide to birth defects and the company is involved in nearly 1,000 lawsuits. This past February a case was settled in N.J. for $25 million dollars to a man who developed inflammatory bowel disease after taking the drug.
Roche pulled Accutane from the market last June claiming they had stopped manufacturing it due to legal expenses, not due to safety concerns. Although Roche has stopped making Accutane, generic Accutane sold as isotretinoin is still available and prescribed.
What has kept Accutane on the market all these years is its success at treating acne unresponsive to other medications. According to the L.A. times, improvement has occurred in 99 percent of patients and 70 percent have been cured using the medication.
A recent study has found that the users of Accutane had twice the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease and almost four times the risk of developing ulcerative colitis than those who had not used the drug. This risk increased the longer the person stayed on Accutane. People usually take the drug daily for three to six months.
Other previous studies have shown that Accutane does not cause an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease including a large study published last July in the American Journal of Gastroenterology performed in Canada.
According to Dr. Seth Crockett, lead researcher of the study showing increased bowel disease risk, it is important to remember that overall, the number of people diagnosed each year with these diseases is low, five to ten per 100,000 .