Isotretinoin is sold under the brand name Accutane. Isotretinoin is also known as 13-cis-retinoic acid. This medicine is used for treating severe acne and for the prevention of skin cancer. Being a potent medication, Accutane is an extensively effective medicine for getting rid of breakouts. Usually, when antibiotic pills and creams don’t work effectively, doctors prescribe Accutane for their patients to get rid of their acne. However, consumers must realize that Accutane has specific short-term and long-term side-effects. Amongst the most severe side effects of Accutane is a congenital disability. If a pregnant woman consumes Accutane (isotretinoin), it might result in miscarriage, infant death, or premature birth. Due to the drug’s risks, it is recommended for pregnant women to enroll in a special pregnancy prevention program before being prescribed the drug Accutane (isotretinoin). 

Accutane (Isotretinoin) Side-Effects

Some of the most common side-effects of Accutane are:

  1. Vision problems 
  2. Dry nose, nosebleeds
  3. Dry skin, rash
  4. Back pain, joint pain
  5. Chapped, dry lips
  6. Itching
  7. Dry eyes

My Personal Experience Using Accutane 

Suffering from acne at the mere age of eighteen, I tried various medications and prescriptions. However, nothing worked. My acne would not go away, no matter what ointment I applied or soap I used to wash my face. It wasn’t until my doctor prescribed for me to consume Accutane. He told me, “It worked like magic to cure acne.” Of course, I was relieved to hear that I’d get a chance to have clear skin and not worry about severe acne before an important meeting or a date night. However, my doctor did warn me about the certain side-effects that came with the consumption of this effective medicine. So, I was careful. The first few days with the consumption of Accutane were smooth. The convenient use did not last when the side-effects started appearing. At first, I had a few minor back pains and joint pains. After a few days, I noticed, my nose bleeds were more frequent. Dry lips and vision problems, was Accutane really worth all the struggles and pain? No. It wasn’t. Nothing came before my health. Although it took me a few days to attain good health, I am glad I stopped using Accutane as a way to get rid of my acne and tried natural remedies instead, which worked perfectly fine! 

Long Term Effects of Accutane 

Birth Defects

The consumption of isotretinoin (Accutane) can lead to miscarriages, or the baby might be born with slits instead of ears. Since 1985, the labels of the isotretinoin (Accutane) medicine had a black box warning, which explained in detail its “severe congenital disabilities” or “extremely high risk.” The female consumers, especially those who may become pregnant or were pregnant, were strictly warned of its side effects. Some of the congenital disabilities listed on the boxes’ warnings included anything from half-slit ears or other face-related abnormalities to negative skull development. Accutane might also affect the central nervous, immune system, certain hormones, and the heart. About half of the women who consume Accutane are at the age of childbearing. More than 2,000 users of Accutane became pregnant from 1982 to 2006. The result of these pregnancies were spontaneous or elective abortions. 

Gastrointestinal Disorders: Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Various studies have shown a strong link of Accutane with two gastrointestinal disorders: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both of the aforementioned diseases are inflammatory bowel diseases, and their effects on different people might vary. Crohn’s disease occurs in the digestive tract, or it might affect the small intestine’s lower end. Whereas ulcerative colitis affects the large intestines’ lining along with negatively affecting the rectum. UC and Crohn’s disease’s most common symptoms are cramping, fever, mouth sores, weight loss, joint pain, blood in the stool, disease’s most common symptoms, and swelling. Ulcerative colitis can be cured with the surgical removal of the large intestine. Whereas Crohn’s diseases cannot be cured. However, it is manageable with various medications. 

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases from Accutane 

A piece of confirmed evidence was presented, those demonstrating a link between the consumption of Accutane and the development of IBD by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hills’ researchers. With 21,832 healthy individuals, 8,189 cases of IBD were compared significantly. The studys’ results showed that the individuals who consumed Accutane had a 1.68 times higher risk of suffering from IBD than those who never consumed the drug. The potential number for the risk increased by 2.67 among those patients who filled four or more Accutane prescriptions. Individuals who consume Accutane are 4.36 times more likely to develop UC than patients who don’t consume the drug. 

Accutane and Depression

Various studies have linked a connection between the consumption of Accutane and the development of the psychiatric disorder. Hundreds of reports were received by the FDA linking depression with isotretinoin consumption from 1982 to May 2000. These reports included 110 hospitalizations and 37 suicide cases for suicidal or depression behavior. Whereas 284 cases were of non-hospitalized depression. Among the reports received by the FDA, 37 suicides were related to the users of isotretinoin over an 18-year time period. In 1998, various brands that manufactured Accutane responded to the suicide and depression report by adding a medication label to warn its consumers of its potential link related to mental health disorders. Depression and suicide reports before 2005, linked to Accutane’s use accounting for the fourth-highest number of adverse reactions in the U.S. It is still unknown by researchers as to why Accutane could lead to depression or suicidal behavior. Confirmed association and proof between Accutane and depression are still lacking. However, it is recommended to seek professional help before taking any health-care decision. 

Accutane Lawsuit

The side-effects of isotretinoin medication have been so severe that they led to 7,000 lawsuits against Accutane manufacturers. Most lawsuits of Accutane have caused various inflammatory bowel disorders and Crohn’s disease. In 2014, a court dismissed the majority of more than 7,000 lawsuits filed against a renowned Accutane manufacturing company. In 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court dismissed another 500 lawsuits by the angry customers of Accutane. Thousands of people who suffered from the severe side effects of Accutane filed lawsuits against various renowned companies, claiming not to have been warned about the drug’s dangerous side effects before use. The majority of the litigation dealt with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. There have been no known large-scale settlements or class actions for patients injured by the medication of acne. 

“Since 1984, there have been suggestions that Accutane might be linked to various forms of inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease. Despite numerous studies on the subject, no such linkage has been found — at least not with substantial reliability.”— American Medical Association