Accutane, also called isotretinoin, is a medication used to treat severe cystic acne. It works by decreasing oil production and reducing inflammation. Accutane carries a risk of severe side effects and should only be used when other treatments for acne have been unsuccessful. Roche Inc. pulled Accutane off the market in 2009, citing economic reasons, but other generic forms of it still exist.
The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology sayss that approximately 50 percent of people who use Accutane show long-term improvement in acne symptoms. During the first few weeks of treatment, 20 percent of patients have an increase in acne; acne significantly worsens in 1 in 500 people. People usually take Accutane for four to six months, but some may need it for an additional four to six months.
A person’s dosage of Accutane is based on his body weight. According to the Mayo Clinic, the dose is 1/2mg to 1mg per kilogram of body weight per day. The dosage per day is once in the morning and once at night.
Common side effects of Accutane include chapped lips, dry skin, itching, mild nosebleed, irritation of the eyelids and eyes, joint and muscle pains, headache, thinning of the hair, lethargy and fatigue. Common side effects can be bothersome but are not life-threatening and go away once usage ends. Serious side effects of Accutane include blurred vision, severe diarrhea, loss of appetite, flu-like symptoms, yellowing of the skin and numbness or weakness. If a person has severe side effects, she should seek immediate medical attention.
In November 2001, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning indicating that Accutane could make some people aggressive and violent. In February 2005, the FDA issued another alert warning that Accutane can cause depression and psychiatric symptoms including suicidal thoughts and behavior. A person with a history of mental illness should be carefully monitored while taking Accutane. Drugs.com says Accutane should only be used in a person with a previous psychiatric history when the benefits outweigh the risks.
Pregnancy and Accutane
Accutane causes serious birth defects. A woman cannot take Accutane while pregnant. A sexually active woman of childbearing age must contract to use two different, effective forms of birth control while taking Accutane. A woman should not get pregnant one month before she starts treatment and within one month of stopping treatment. A woman cannot breast-feed while taking Accutane.