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 [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.
FDA Drug Safety Information
A History of Accutane Regulation in the United States
I took Accutane in 1999. Felt like i was dying(was only 26yrs old). Skin returned to as bad or worse condition after taking it. Multiple health problems started immediately after finishing Accutane, such as terrible headaches daily, nosebleeds daily, frequent illness, missing more and more days of work. Quit doctors. Started reading and trying everything i could to improve my health. 20 yrs later… i am still alive, which feels like a huge accomplishment/miracle!. i have hyperthyroidism, very thin cant gain weight. Have to follow a very strict diet to be able to function in life. Having serious joint pain in my hands-this is a new health issue . Pain/heaviness/soreness in the area of the liver- have had this for 20 yrs. Feel fairly certain i have early onset Alzheimers or other neurological disorder, started having memory loss events a couple yrs ago. I am 45 yrs old. If i stop my diet i can manage for a few days/wks but then stop being able to function in life. I feel that Accutane would have killed me had i taken it for a longer time. I think if u have a strong body you may be able to tolerate its toxicity but for those of us not as strong, it will destroy your health.
Say YES to Accutane! I couldn’t agree more. In 1986, I was 30 and after 20 years of cystic acne and various daily antibiotics and Tretinoin creams, I did 2 sessions of Accutane for about 5-6 months. I had to go for monthly pregnancy tests, even though I told the doctor I didn’t have a boyfriend and no hot prospects. During treatment there was redness, blackheads pushed themselves out of pores, and you could roll them out with your finger. Big deal, so what! I used Vaseline on the inside of my nose and on my face for the dryness – these days I’d use generic lanolin, but who knew then :-).
At the end of the treatment, the redness and dryness went away, I haven’t had a cyst, pimple, or blackhead since. People who knew me before often didn’t recognize me because the swelling of my nose, caused by acne, wasn’t there. I no longer spent hours in the mirror trying to squeeze out cysts or lift the tops off blackheads. It was a miracle drug and I’d take it again and recommend it.
When I first heard that they were talking about taking Accutane off the market, I believed it was because dermatologist and drug companies were losing money. Back in the 80’s, acne wasn’t covered by insurance companies and monthly and bi-monthly doctor visits and treatments were out-of-pocket. Accutane was a product that cured a problem and reduced the income of a lot of people and companies.
One interesting thing happened and I’ve often wondered if anyone else had the same experience. During the 20 years of taking various antibiotics for acne, I was never really sick. I stopped taking antibiotics with Accutane and the following winter I immediately got a bad case of the flu and was sick for about 16 weeks, I thought I was dying. I’ve gotten a flu shot since and haven’t had any other problems. I’m 66 now and people compliment me on how good my skin looks…if they only knew!
Most of the comments from people that are not here about the real bad side effects are dead.
It has ruined my life and my body, Yes I took too much because it made me want to kill myself.
So I took 3 months in 1 go.
22 years on, now disabled because of my desiccated spine.
15 years suffering with chronic lower back pain.
Liver is done, kidneys OK at the moment, Bowels are f”ked.
Starting to cough some blood most days now also, and severe lung? pain.
I am 39 years old and I know I haven’t long left.
Positives! I never have to wash my hair.
My skin looks like it was made yesterday.
Say YES to Accutane. This article is a tad silly. I disagree with your argument. Accutane has changed so many lives for the better when nothing else could. Just because there is a list of side-effects, doesn’t mean a person is going to get more than a tenth of them, nor are all of the side-effects even proven true (ex. depression). I’ve been on it for months and experienced only dryness. Haha, sorry that your article bothered me so much.
Sarah Pope MGA
I guess you didn’t bother to read through the comments of the many people seriously damaged by taking a chemo drug to clear their skin.
Yes you over used it, when it clearly states not to.
Every where I read about Accutane the major concern for people with acne seems to be emotional discomfort. But what about the pain, what about the bleeding, the scarring, the constant swelling… today is my first day taking accutane , I am 29 and half my life I have been trying to get rid of my acne. I have tried almost every possibility, some medications worked till I stopped using them.i stopped drinking dairy products , eggs, avocados, peanut and all I achieved was a very low BMI. The acne on my face is not that severe considering the faces of some people I have seen, but my biggest problem is on the back of my head. Any neck movement is a pain it’s always oozing and bleeding , I can’t have a hair cut and I work for a company with strict rules for personal grooming. so I am here trying the last resort .I am taking all the precautions I need. Considering all the user reviews I have read there isn’t much to worry about, I only have to take it for two months and hope for the best unless I am one of the most unluckiest person alive!.
Need more educated, balanced approach here. The bottom line is most people can take this drug with manageable side effects. However, a small percentage of the 13 million who have used it will have suffered some of the more serious side effects. The key to all these decisions is understanding risk vs benefits. Different people will weigh these two things differently. It is NOT a moral decision. I took this drug for five months in 1989 and had the more mild side effects. I was a good athlete and didn’t notice joint issues or muscle problems even as I continued to play basketball and workout. I’ve been relatively acne free since, 30 years. Knowing the risks I would still take it again under proper care and appropriate dosing. I suspect some of the problems result from too high doses or lack of monitoring. It is a very beneficial drug for the vast majority who take it. No drug is perfect so again they all have to be measured against potential benefits.
Finally, there are ZERO studies showing any natural remedy works on moderate to severe acne. If you know of a legitimate one backed by science then please share. Don’t just throw out there some anecdotal story or two. They are not proven solutions to stubborn acne.
Just like anyone out there with cystic acne, when I was in my teens, I was ready to do anything it took to achieve clear, smooth skin. I tried countless expensive OTC topical products that did next to nothing to help so I started seeing a dermatologist. All the prescription creams and oral antibiotics had little to no affect either but offered pleanty of unpleasant side effects. I was starting to get desperate at that point and somebody told me about Accutane. Little did I realize what I was getting myself into.
My first course of Accutane was for 7 months. It worked wonders and I felt beautiful and confident. That is until I started breaking out again about 6 months to a year later. I understood that in some cases a second course was necessary. I rushed to my dermatologist’s office and requested to go back on it again. This time I only had to take it for a few months. Again I felt amazing and the confidence returned. My skin stayed clear for years, but down the road, once again, I began to break out. I didnt have insurance at the time so luckily a friend of mine had a months worth of Claravis (generic for Accutane), in which he no longer needed. Eagerly I began taking it for a third time. That was just over 8 years ago and I had consistently clear skin since then. Recently I had a sudden breakout mainly on the left side of my face. I also broke out on my neck, chest, and a little on my back, which were all places I’ve never broken out before. This breakout came along at the same time as a bunch of strange symptoms, which had me back and forth to the ER and seeing just about every doctor imaginable. I fell into the deepest depression ever. It took two months, in which i went through pure hell, for the doctors to find some sort of clue as to what might be wrong. In an attempt to rule out MS, an MRI of my brain showed a 9mm benign tumor on my left pituitary gland that has been secreting hormones and my prolactin (hormone) levels are elevated. No wonder I had been suffering acne for so long. I’m 39 now and facing some serious consequences from Accutane.
Along with the MRI of my brain, an MRI of my lower spine was performed. Unfortunately I have 2 herniated discs and facet joint arthritis of the lumbar spine. Trying to figure out how this could have possibly happened, my brother reminded me of the Accutane. I looked up the side effects and there lies the possibility…many types of bone problems. Now I know how I lost 5 teeth and am on the way to losing another. My body seems to be deteriorating and I’m not even 40 years old.
In the end, I am left with scars all over my face because my skin doesn’t heal right anymore and I’m back on oral antibiotics for cystic acne just like I was over 15 years ago.
When I was younger I didn’t care about side effects if I knew it meant I could have clear skin. But what i really should have done was tried to find out what was causing the acne. My body was trying to tell me something and I ignored that and focused on a quick fix. Unfortunately, that fix never happened. I am only left with irreparable damage and I have a feeling this is only the start of the miserable long term effects of the drug I once thought was a miracle.
Neither. I’ll clean up my diet, including cutting out gluten, dairy, sugar, and grains. Boom, cystic acne gone.
Don’t knock it til you try it.