Acne drug Roaccutane 'overused' says UK dermatologist

26/11/12

An acne drug, which it is claimed is linked to depression, is being given to a growing number of young people who don't need it, says one of the UK's top dermatologists.

Roaccutane is the most powerful drug to treat acne and has been prescribed to more than half a million people.

Campaigners say it is dangerous and can cause serious mental health problems.

"Roaccutane is grossly overused," said Doctor Tony Chu, who thinks it should be used as a last resort.

I've seen patients who have been to see a local dermatologist to treat four of five spots and still been offered it
Doctor Tony Chu
Dermatologist

"I've seen patients who have been to see a local dermatologist to treat four or five spots and still been offered it.

"If you read the guidelines it should only be used for people who have severe acne."

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the government body responsible for licensing drugs and treatments in the UK.

Dr June Raine, who speaks for the group, insists most people respond well to the drug and some are depressed before taking the drug.

"It's been a highly effective treatment for tens of thousands of people," she said.

"Depression is linked with a severe skin condition but it tends to get worse as the condition gets worse."

Derek Jones and Jesse Jones
Image caption Derek Jones says Roaccutane was partly to blame for the death of his son Jesse

Twenty-four-year-old Jesse Jones, from Dorset, took his own life last year.

He had been taking Roaccutane and his family believe the drug was partly to blame for his death.

'Self-loathing'

His father, Derek Jones, says the acne deeply affected him.

"His absolute self-loathing was because he had bad acne," he said.

"The acne was to blame in the beginning but the Roaccutane added to what happened."

Roche, the company which makes Roaccutane, says there is no cause or link between the drug and depression, or suicidal thoughts.

Figures show only one in 10,000 people will experience such serious side-effects.

More than half a million people have been prescribed Roaccutane worldwide.

Latest figures show there were nine suicides of people who were taking Roaccutane recorded between September 2010 and September 2011.

Your views on Twitter about Roaccutane

Billy: "Used when I was 19 with success. Is it chicken/egg case - would depression still occur without?"

Trina: "I took Roaccutane for my skin when I was 14. Hellish drug with really bad side effects but it sorted my skin."

Connie: "I took Roaccutane in 2011 and it changed my life. I don't think people should be denied that. So few people get side effects."

Ben: "I was on Roaccutane from age 14 until nearly 16 and had no problems with it at all. It helped a lot and I've had no problems since."

Watch the full programme, Dying for Clear Skin, on BBC Three at 21:00 GMT on 26 November.

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