Cancer Drug for Acne? Why You Must Say No to Accutane

by Carla Hernandez, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner June 10, 2014

Accutane

By Carla Hernandez, NTP of Wise Roots Nutrition

Did you know acne is the most common skin disorder in the United States, affecting 40 to 50 million Americans?

Nearly 85 percent of all people will have acne at some point in their lives. It can generally begin in the teen years, with more than 40 percent of adolescents being affected due to puberty and hormonal changes, and although it is generally seen as a teenage phase, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

More than 90% of clients I work with struggling with acne are over 30 years old. For some it does go away, and for others it stays, and for many, the first time they experience acne may not be until later in life, from late 20’s to even 50 years of age.

Acne affects individuals not just physically, but emotionally as well. The notion that acne is just a “cosmetic problem” is very off base. Acne is a reflection of something greater happening in the body that is not being corrected. Therefore, the skin continues to lash out in an effort to communicate that there is an imbalance, deficiency, or the mechanics within are just not working as they should be. But this takes time to figure out, and unfortunately, our conventional way of addressing acne tries to do this immediately with topical treatment and/or pills.

Though no matter what age acne occurs, the one thing everyone will feel as a result is pain and embarrassment. Acne affects an individuals confidence, mental outlook, and can greatly impact one’s social life. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five U.S. adults also suffers from acne, and for them the psychological toll is often no less severe.

So the question then becomes: How far would you go to get rid of your acne?

Would you compromise your health for clear skin? Would you gain more weight, lose your concentration, vision or appetite? How about put your unborn baby at risk for severe health consequences? Sounds crazy right? If you have ever experienced acne, you know the desperation one feels, literally being at your wits end to find an answer.

Once the topical products and treatments stop working (or may never have), it’s quite normal to start looking for other options. Go to your doctor or dermatologist, like most people, and you may find they prescribe a little drug called Accutane.

Accutane: The Most Dangerous Drug Ever Created?

Actually, this is no little drug at all, and definitely not something to just accept and take lightly.

The generic name is sold as, isotretinoin, and formerly marketed as Accutane (Roaccutane outside the United States). Other generic forms of Accutane are Claravis, Sotret and Amnesteem. Accutane is part of a class of medications that were originally marketed as chemotherapy drugs.  The generic versions of Accutane are just as dangerous as the original.

The medication is a synthetic derivative of vitamin A and works by controlling the oil in the sebaceous glands for those who have not responded to antibiotic treatment.

In 1975 American researchers for Hoffmann-La Roche began studying the chemical, isotretinoin, and found it to be an extremely powerful antidote to acne, unmatched by any other treatment. They found that 85% of patients who took Accutane achieve full remission after a typical course of treatment (about five months). FDA Consumer Magazine pronounced it as “the biggest breakthrough in acne drug treatment over the last 20 years.” It was, and still is seen as a “miracle drug”, but at what cost?

Accutane Side Effects

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated:

“All patients treated with isotretinoin should be observed closely for symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts, such as sad mood, irritability, acting on dangerous impulses, anger, loss of pleasure or interest in social or sports activities, sleeping too much or too little, changes in weight or appetite, school or work performance going down, or trouble concentrating, or for mood disturbance, psychosis, or aggression.

Other side effects include: 

  • Diminished night vision
  • Increased bone injuries and concussion risk due to weakened bones
  • Severe joint and muscle pain
  • Liver damage
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Red, cracked or sore lips
  • Brittle nails
  • Unusual hair growth or hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Increased reaction to UV exposure
  • Nosebleeds
  • Peeling skin
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Slow healing of cuts or bruises
  • Dry eyes
  • Muscle aches
  • Increase susceptibility to colds
  • IBS
  • Depression
  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Suicide
  • Guaranteed birth defects

Drugmaker, Roche, who created the original version of Accutane has had 13 lawsuits from users who developed inflammatory bowel disease as a result of taking Accutane. In addition, it has been showed in brain scans that there was a 21% decrease in brain activity, leading to depression, suicide and aggressive behavior.

Accutane, which is currently no longer on the market, was only meant to be used as a last resort to treat acne, but prescriptions of its competitors and generic versions are just as health damaging and are being offered for even acute cases of a few spots.

Remember, generic forms of Accutane are still on the market and heavily overprescribed. They are listed as Isotretinoin (originally Accutane), Claravis, Sotret and Amnesteem and are just as deadly.

According to Jennifer Hansen, a 21 year-old taking Accutane who keeps an online Accutane journal, “This medicine has given me my life back. . . . I am now confident, happy and very excited about life. I no longer feel inferior and can actually look people in the eyes.”

This statement sounds like a contradiction knowing the dangerous potential that Accutane has to destroy lives. If Jennifer had tried other natural methods that addressed her real cause of acne, she may have truly gotten her life back, both in clear skin and health, but unfortunately for those who have used Accutane, the consequences may not come until later in life.

Accutane: FDA Pregnancy Category X

The deadliest side affect of them all was announced when the FDA slapped the strongest warning available, as an FDA Pregnancy Category X rating, GUARANTEEING that whether you are pregnant or will become pregnant, taking Accutane can cause birth defects, miscarriage, and death in babies.

According to Julia Green, who wrote the article, “A History of Accutane Regulation in the United States” through Harvard Law School, “One quarter of babies born who have been exposed to Accutane during gestation have major congenital deformities. Those babies born without major malformations frequently develop severe learning disabilities.”

Is this not reason enough to avoid this drug?!

According to the FDA’s iPledge system:

“There is an extremely high risk that severe birth defects will result if pregnancy occurs while taking isotretinoin in any amount, even for short periods of time. Birth defects which have been documented following isotretinoin exposure include abnormalities of the face, eyes, ears, skull, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and thymus and parathyroid glands. Cases of IQ scores less than 85 with or without other abnormalities have been reported. There is an increased risk of spontaneous abortion, and premature births have been reported.”

Dr. Edward Lammer, a medical geneticist and consultant to FDA, states,“There is no other medication that poses an absolute risk anything remotely close to this, even medications used to treat cancer during pregnancy”.

Profits over Health

In addition to it’s life threatening side effects, Accutane has been one of the most profitable drugs on the market. It has brought in over $700 million a year for the Swiss company’s creator with 12 million people worldwide having taken it. In 2000, Accutane sales totaled $759.4 million, which accounted for 8% of total prescription drug sales.

It’s no wonder why Accutane is as easily prescribed as it is, even in the most acute cases. Think about who profits with this, or any drug when given your options to treat symptoms; it’s very rarely the consumer.

Get to the Root Cause of Your Acne and Say No to Accutane!

The answer isn’t as black and white as we’d like to think, but if we take a step back and look at acne for what it is, which like almost every health condition, is inflammation at the root. Since there are many causes for inflammation, getting to an individuals cause of acne is a bit of an investigation, although starting with the foundations is always the best choice. This includes a whole foods anti-inflammatory diet, healthy digestion, which includes looking at possible yeast/ infections/ bacteria and parasites possibilities. A strong immunity, balanced hormones, blood sugar control,  stress management (both physically and emotionally), undergoing a comprehensive and supportive detoxification program, and at the simplest level, following a non toxic, non comedogenic skin regime to compliment your internal work.

If you would like more information on how to get clear skin working with one of our trained nutritionists to customize your program to meet your body’s needs, book a complimentary phone consultation to find out more. Whether you’re local or out of the country, we work with people all over the world. Visit the Wise Roots website to find out more, and subscribe to the Wise Roots Newsletter to get your free copy of our healthy skin smoothies!

Stay in touch through Facebook, Twitter and on the Wise Roots Pinterest page to get skin, health and nutrition tips to clear your skin from the inside out, not with deadly drugs!

About the Author

carla hernandezCarla Hernandez is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who uses nutrition, diet and lifestyle interventions to support physiological mechanisms within the body. She is the founder of Wise Roots Nutrition, which is an integrative approach that focuses on customized plans to support the root cause of a person’s health and skin challenges.

Carla educates and empowers you to make responsible and healthful food choices that restore balance and proper function to your body, as well as offers lab testing to provide accurate recommendations and effective solutions. She believes in finding the root cause of a condition, rather than just treating the symptoms. Carla works with people locally in San Francisco, as well as long distance via phone and Skype. She specializes in Digestive Issues, Weight Loss and Skin Conditions. 

Sources:

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm094305.htm

http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/8963867/Green.html?sequence=2

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-29/roche-ordered-to-pay-18-million-to-former-accutane-users.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a7Oj2q25ZHZ8

Photo Credit

 

Comments (33)

  1. Just wanted to share that I took Accutane for 2 cycles, then had stomach problems for 4 years without a diagnosis. They kept telling me it was IBS. Well, by eliminating foods for years, i finally figured out that Legumes bothered my stomach, and once I stopped eating them, I haven’t had a stomach ache or bloating or sharp pains for 6 years!! I think the accutane destroys your ability to create the enzymes necessary for digesting these foods. Anyway, I love sharing what helped me with other people. So far it has changed the lives of 15 people I have told. Worth a try in my opinion! If I am ever craving Hummus or Peanut Butter, I just take the proper digestive enzymes right before I eat, and my little indulgence doesn’t bother me one bit! Best wishes!!

    Reply
  2. Wow. I took Accutane when I was in Middle school. I was so heartbroken about my skin- they never said it was cystic but my terrible dermatologist put me on it. Back then my parents didn’t know anything about it. All they said was I would have to get blood tests every month to make sure I wasn’t pregnant b/c the baby would have severe abnormalities. I lost my finger nails…. they disintegrated on my fingers half way down. It was disgusting! I now have very clear skin- extremely dry and have Ulcerative Coltis and depression that comes and goes. I really feel it is caused by the Accutane. I was approached about the lawsuit but felt I needed to just get past it… in other ways and waiting for money to never come was not what I wanted. So now I take meds for Colitis, try to eat healthy and go back & forth between Gluten free & Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I’d like to get off the meds.
    OK sorry if I shared too much. Was good to hear other’s stories.

    Reply
    • Just wanted to share that I took Accutane for 2 cycles, then had stomach problems for 4 years without a diagnosis. They kept telling me it was IBS. Well, by eliminating foods for years, i finally figured out that Legumes bothered my stomach, and once I stopped eating them, I haven’t had a stomach ache or bloating or sharp pains for 6 years!! I think the accutane destroys your ability to create the enzymes necessary for digesting these foods. Anyway, I love sharing what helped me with other people. So far it has changed the lives of 15 people I have told. Worth a try in my opinion! If I am ever craving Hummus or Peanut Butter, I just take the proper digestive enzymes right before I eat, and my little indulgence doesn’t bother me one bit! Best wishes.
      Lindsey

      Reply
  3. My husband took Accutane as a teen. He developed IBS later and his skin is almost always dry. Since we married, his health and skin have improved dramatically with natural remedies, organic diet, and no drugs. He was already on the right path searching for natural ways to live better when I met him. I came from a family that tried to live healthy before it was “cool”. We work well together. =)

    Reply
    • Sarah might I ask what natural remedies he does for his skin? I love some new tips- the Accutane made my skin very dry too. Thanks!

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Why You Must Say NO to Accutane

  5. Important to keep your fluoride consumption in check: fluoride ingestion has been linked to acne.

    My 16 year old nephew just had a fluoride treatment at the dentist (without the consent of his parents) and PRESTO: acne appeared practically overnight never having had it before.

    Reply
  6. I think this article is misleading. First of all, isotretinoin is a naturally occurring vitamer of Vitamin A. It acts on retinoid receptors on cell membranes, albeit in an extreme way when given in high doses. Vitamin A regulates cell growth and retinoids do not affect cancer cells the way toxic chemotherapy drugs poison fast growing cells. Comparing the two treatments is apples and oranges.
    All of the possible side effects of taking isotretinoin are also side effects of taking high dosages of Vitamin A supplements, including the horrendous birth defects.
    Isotretinoin affects the liver because it is a retinoid. It is likely that people who experience the worst side effects on Accutane had preexisting diminished liver function (a lot of teens and young adults consume a lot of sugar and alcohol or pharma drugs), low Vitamin D status (epidemic now in the Western world and Vitamin D balances Vitamin A intake. Low D can cause depression), or excessive dosages as prescribed by doctors.
    I did two rounds of Accutane at ages 18 and 21. It completely changed my life and personality and cured my body-wide cystic acne. I suffered no ill effects, but I also was healthy, had no preexisting vision or digestive problems, ate fish and eggs, limited sugar, got sunlight, and had never tasted alcohol. I think taking isptretinoin OR high doses of Vitamin A when in healthy condition and balancing with Vitamin D is probably not very risky. Isotretinoin levels drop after 9 days of discontinued use and does not toxify the bottom.
    I would have chosen Vitamin A over Accutane if I had known, but I don’t regret my choice to take it, and neither did my dermatologist who had taken it as well. She monitored me well and tested my liver enzymes and everything worked out.

    Reply
  7. My acne that I had for over ten years HEALED completely through NAET and possibly in combination with grounding/earthing. NAET stands for Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques which utilizes acupuncture to neutralize the body’s nervous system’s opposition to an allergen. I was willing to try anything other than drugs. I went NAET for over six months before getting results because it does take time. I’d tried many different diets (with a Nourishing Traditions/GAPs/Paleo combination over the last ten years) and natural topicals over the last ten years such as tea tree oil, ACV, neem oil, zinc oxide, etc. The grounding/earthing theoretically helps relieve inflammation by releasing the positively charged free radicals through direct contact (barefoot) with the earth’s negative charge (as humans and animals have been doing for years before the invention of rubber soled shoes.) I bought earthing sheets. These two actions cleared my acne and hope will help others!

    Reply
  8. Thanks for this important and informative article.

    I took Accutane when I wan in my mid-thirties (before my journey to wellness started). I was informed of the side effects, but my vanity took precedence over my logic.

    Fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones and did not incur any negative consequences.

    As an aside, I was also on oral (and inject-able) tetracycline for acne for 18 years … and as a result suffered a debilitating case of system Candida that literally shut down my body. it took me over a year to fully recover.

    Hopefully this article (and others on you site) will educate people about the potential dangers of these harsh chemical drugs …. and enlighten them about how to cure their acne and other skin disorders from the inside-out through proper nutrition and the plethora of natural and extremely effective skin care treatments.
    Susan Ritter\’s last post: Jing Herbs Review – Are Tonic Herbs the Missing Link to Lasting Beauty?

    Reply
  9. My husband was given accutane during his mid-teens. He experienced many of the listed side effects, including hair loss. IN HIS TEENS. My soul will always shrivel at the thought that he was given this poison, on top of his woefully inadequate and often poisonous diet, when my family I could have steered him in the right direction and saved him so much emotional agony. If only I’d known.

    I’ve recently had some of the worst acne of my life. I was a blessedly clear-skinned teenager because I ate very well. It was not until our financial situation became desperate that I began to experience many of the health issues that plagued friends of mine from early in life. I think soon, though, we will be okay, and be able to begin the long journey of healing ourselves from the inside. It is demonstrable that my skin problems began in my gut!

    Reply
  10. I took this drug and my Dr. went over in detail all of the horrible side effects. I chose to still take it. This is a decision for a patient and Dr. to decide not blog reader and internet nutritionist. If you are considering starting this drug talk to a Dr. and decide if the risk is worth it for you. If you are an adult who has never had terrible acne you have no idea how it feels.

    Reply
    • Sarah..what is the matter with posting an article by the author to inform people of the truth of a drug. Carla did not just list side effects randomly. The information is from the drug company AND the FDA!. It is good that the Dr. informed you but not every doctor will do that. People have a right to know then at least investigate it further by talking to a pharmacist.
      By the way, if I had acne, I would rather look into finding out other ways of treating it instead of taking a drug with horrible side effects. I would not have known other ways to help treat it if it wasn’t for this article.
      Actually I DO know what it feels like to have had acne and I still would not have taken Acutane. I refused when offered as a teenager.

      Reply
  11. I took Accutane in the 80′s as a teen. I developed several of these side effects and at least one that’s not listed but found in only 1% of patients. Every time I tell a dr. that I was on Accutane, a look of horror crosses their faces and “Oh.”

    Reply
  12. As a Master Esthetician I cringe whenever I have a client that has taken or is taking accutaine, or antibiotics for that matter. I always ask about lifestyle and foods. My scope of practice isn’t broad enough for me to give medical advice but I try to steer clients in the right direction. But don’t think that what you put on your skin doesn’t matter. More than 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your system. You need to work from the inside and the outside.

    Reply
  13. Is there any way to reverse the long term side affects? I took Accutane in high school and suffer from several of the mentioned side affects. For example, is there anyway to improve my night vision?

    Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist
      Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist June 10, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Have you tried fermented cod liver oil? The natural vitamin A in it does seem to help night vision in some folks.

      Reply
    • Readers, WARNING! BEWARE! Believe this complete and utter nonsense (tripe) at your own risk. Don’t make the mistake of trading a belief in these false and misleading statements from an uneducated individual for physical and/or psychological acne scars by an unjustified bias against isotretinoin, a naturally occurring body chemical.

      Signed,

      - A famous dermatologist with one agenda – health and happiness of acne sufferers -

      Reply
      • Ha ha ! “Miss Infirmation” I guess by posting an article about the truth of Acutane we are treading of your financial profit when people choose to not take it?

        Reply
      • It’s only “nonsense” if you don’t live with the consequences every single day. Think what you will, but there are many people out there that have been damaged by this horrible drug.

        Reply
  14. I took Accutane when I was in college, after going through the usual conventional acne treatments (antibiotics, etc.). I remember my lips being very dry and remember having to go to a lab for regular blood tests to check my liver function. It cleared my skin up but I did suffer from depression after taking it, and looking back, I do believe that my struggle with my weight began around the time I was on the Accutane.

    Reply
  15. I took Accutane twice in my twenties, when I was desperate to clear up my cystic acne.
    Up until recently, I was still singing its praises, saying that I got my life back and that the continued dry lips and dry eyes were a small price to pay.

    I only recently made the connection that the melasma which started out as a small spot in my mid twenties cropped up shortly after my second (very heavy) course of Accutane. Over the last 10 years, it has continued to spread to the point that now it covers most of my face. I now know that Accutane caused me to have a leaky gut (I’ve tested positive for it) and that the leaky gut is what caused the melasma.

    These are only the consequences that I am aware of. I wish I had tried cutting out gluten and dairy before taking such a dangerous drug, but the dermatologists swore that food had nothing to do with acne, and I believed them. If I could go back in time, not taking Accutane is the one thing I would change.

    Reply
  16. Cecilia Barnard June 10, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Carla,

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I was prescribed Accutane at age 15 and then years of antibiotics and am still doing my best to heal my body from the damages. I have experienced at least 10 of the above side effects and am still suffering from migraines and other symptoms. Is there a protocol you would suggest?

    I am still very angry at this dermatologist for prescribing this sort of thing to children. I have a soon- to- be 15 year old and would never expose her to such harmful toxins. We got rid of her break outbreaks through good nutrition. This drug definitely needs to be pulled from the market or at least require a minimum age of 18 years or older. It doesn’t seem right to administer this to children with underdeveloped organs.

    Thank you again for publishing this and raising awareness. All we can do is educate ourselves.

    Sincerely,

    Cecilia

    Reply
  17. I wish I wouldn’t been way more holistic and natural with my lifestyle as I am now. As a teen I leaned that way because that’s how I was raised, but a dermatologist prescribed this drug for my acne as a teen.

    I do have clear smooth skin. But I’ve also been pretty much gluten free and paleo and very much organic with my lifestyle since before thinking of having babies after I got married.

    Reply
  18. I’m not commenting on this post directly, burt wanted to let Sarah know about news that I’m surprised I haven’t seen shouted from her website, but that I just heard from Christa Orrechio. It’s not new news that these oils are bad, but it is news and fabulous news that the medical community is finally admitting it and writing about it in their journals!!
    Here’s the link:
    http://thewholejourney.com/the-shocking-truth-about-vegetable-oil?inf_contact_key=c669d9a1234450ea23e10176121c59b6d78944f98846772a6bc0c0899cea16df

    Reply
  19. Thank you for posting this! I really wish I would have been more informd about the real causes of acne when i as a teenager. I had horrible skin in high school and as a last resort i chose to take accutane. It worked for me but i often wonder what the long term effects might be. Do you know where i can find more information about the long term side effects?

    Reply
  20. Wow, this is scary stuff! I took Accutane back in the mid- to late-nineties for horrible acne. Are there document long-term issues I should worry about? I don’t remember having any of those symptoms as a teen, but I sure developed a few of them in my twenties. If I choose to have children in the next few years, do I need to worry about anything harming my unborn child/children, or is the “risk” gone?

    Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist
      Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist June 10, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      The risk with Accutane to an unborn baby is only if the mother takes it while pregnant. As far as the other symptoms, yes some of these can crop up later after the drug is no longer taken.

      Reply
  21. When I did knot nothing about healthy lifestyle and hormone balancing in my teenage years, in desperation I chose accutane for my acne which started when I was 9 (dermotologist did not say anything about side effects). Before that, I did antibiotics for it. Accutane, which I did in my late teens, really dried out my skin, skin became tight…Also scarring would occur more easily! On top of that, I was in major negative mood but at that time did not attribute it to the drug…Only when I stopped it (after being on it for a full course), in a few months I became feeling better. When I started learning more about nutrition when I was 21, I was able to get rid of acne (at least control it). In my 30 now, I finally love my skin and people complement on it…and they do not believe I used to have horrible skin in my teens.

    Basically, I stopped washing my face with any cleansers and really improved my diet and got rid of excess estrogen producing foods (polyunsaturated oils are part of this!!!) and products, and in my late twenties finally started balancing my hormones with food, herbs, nutrition. Right now I only oil cleanse in the evening and do not wash my face in the morning at all – and my skin thanks me for it!!

    I know everything happens in ideal timing, but I wish someone recommended I see a nutrition practitioner when I was a teen!!!
    marina @ Dynamic Health\’s last post: My favorite cooking websites

    Reply
  22. Pingback: Cancer Drug for Acne? Why You Must Say No to Accutane » Nourishing News

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