What is Accutane?

Generic versions of the named brand Accutane are still sold today, usually for severe cystic acne. Women must usually submit to hormonal birth control, to ensure pregnancy does not occur while taking this medication.

Accutane is a medication, once prescribed for those with severe, cystic acne. The drug was developed and approved by the FDA in the 80’s. Severe side effects were often noted with its use, and it was given a black box warning. In 2009, the name brand Accutane was discontinued by manufacturers. Generic versions are still available sold under the names Amnesteen and Claravis.

Accutane Purpose

Accutane is very effective at treating more severe cases of acne. It was most often prescribed for those with cystic or highly severe acne, and for whom other acne medications were not effective. Initial studies showed that Accutane provided clearer skin for up to 80% of patients, and these results were usually long lasting.

Accutane was originally developed for use as a chemotherapy medication. It is particularly effective at treating cases that are resistant to antibiotic treatments. It is in the retinoid class of medications, and is a derivative of vitamin A.

Issues with Accutane

Although highly effective, Accutane and similar drugs may take time to work. Some patients also report worsening symptoms before seeing an improvement in acne. Accutane was sold in capsules ranging from 10 to 40 milligrams. Side effects are common with this drug, with many patients complaining of dry eyes and stomach upset. Other side effects can include nosebleed, decreased night vision, bleeding gums, peeling skin, slower healing times for cuts and other abrasions, cold-like symptoms, cracked or sore lips, aching muscles, increased risk of bone loss or fractures, changes in nail texture or growth, fatigue, hair loss or growth, and changes in voice. Some patients may also develop more serious problems over time, such as Crohn’s disease.

The most serious problems with Accutane and similar retinoid drugs is the risk of birth defects. In less than a year after its release, cases of severe deformities in infants were being reported among mothers who were given the drug during pregnancy. This led to a national movement to prevent pregnant women from taking Accutane and similar medications. Potential birth defects linked to Accutane use include cleft lip and palate, missing ears, facial dysmorphism, and neurological disorders. According to Drug Watch, up to 42% of infants born to mothers who used Accutane have one or more birth defects.

Digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Lawsuits began arising in which young adults were diagnosed with these conditions after using Accutane.

Additionally, Accutane has been linked to psychiatric disorders and suicidal thoughts. As of 2005, Accutane was the fifth highest ranked drug for causing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, according to Drug Watch.

In 2009, the manufacturer of Accutane discontinued its production.

Who Should Take Accutane?

Accutane is no longer manufactured. Similar and generic versions are still available, however. These drugs are rarely recommended for those with moderate to severe acne unless breakouts are so severe they interfere with daily life. Those who wish to take prescribed drugs in this category are often required to sign legal documents stating they are aware of the risks. Women must submit to taking hormonal birth control while on retinoid acne medications, and routine pregnancy tests may be required.

Other methods of acne control should be attempted first, and even then, consumers would do well to approach this drug with extreme caution.

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