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 [Accutane] 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
- Increased reaction to UV exposure
- Peeling skin
- Bleeding or swollen gums
- Slow healing of cuts or bruises
- Dry eyes
- Muscle aches
- Increase susceptibility to colds
- Aggressive Behavior
- 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.
Accutane Heavily Overprescribed Under Different Names
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 Accutane is as easily prescribed as it is, even in the most acute cases. Think about who profits with this, or any drug when it offers the easy option to treat symptoms only. It’s not the patient!
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. If we take a step back and look at acne for what it is, like almost every health condition, it is inflammation at the root. Since there are many causes for inflammation, getting to an individual’s cause of acne is a bit of an investigation. It starts with a whole foods anti-inflammatory diet to encourage healthy digestion. This process includes looking at possible yeast infections, pathogenic bacteria and parasites as possibilities. Strong immunity, balanced hormones, blood sugar control, and stress management is also important. In addition, undergoing a comprehensive and supportive detoxification program can help tremendously. At the simplest level, following a nontoxic, noncomedogenic skin regime works from the outside to compliment your internal work.
Carla Hernandez is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) who uses nutrition, diet and lifestyle interventions to support physiological mechanisms within the body. She specializes in Digestive Issues, Weight Loss and Skin Conditions.