May 20, 2010

Acne is a common disease found in teenagers and can continue to be a skin disease well into adulthood for long periods.  It can be debilitating to the individual because of its presence on the face for everyone to see.  Acne affects 80-90% of adolescents of whom 15-30% need serious medical treatment.  The medical community views acne as a chronic disease (long lasting) as opposed to a self-limited problem of teenagers, and treats it accordingly.

Over the past 30 years or so medications used for acne therapy have remained the same, making use of topical and systemic approaches that include antibiotics and retinoids (isotretinoin, Accutane).  Accutane was to be used for the 15-30% of acne cases that demonstrated severe cystic acne that is physically and emotionally scarring.  However, the government found that 90% of women and nearly half the teens using Accutane therapy had only mild cases of acne.

Currently, there are no cures for acne.  Acne therapies simply treat symptoms.   Generally, four factors contribute to the presence of Acne: oil producing glands in the skin enlarge and produce too much oil (seborrhea), alterations in growth and differentiation of follicular keratinocytes (skin cells around hairs) occur, bacteria colonize hair follicles, and then inflammation and immune reactions occur.  Acne therapies target these four factors to gain control.  The first-line of attack is topical antibiotics and/or topical retinoids.  In severe cases, systemic treatments include anti-androgens, oral contraceptives, or oral isotretinoin (Accutane).  Isotretinoin is the most potent inhibitor of all four factors involved with acne.  Due to Accutane side effects the drug is now used as a second-line of defense in treatment for severe cystic acne.

Accutane Safety Issues

Documented Accutane side effects include depression, psychosis, suicide, hair loss (may be permanent), joint and muscle pain, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, heart attack, stroke, seizures, and birth defects.  Accutane is a potent teratogen (causing birth defects) and designated as an FDA pregnancy category X drug (X indicates severe birth defects).  Malformations of the brain, face, and cardiovascular system have been reported.  This drug needs to be used with caution in females of childbearing age.  In 2005, the FDA required physicians, patients, pharmacies, and manufacturers to comply with the iPLEDGE program, which requires registration of all patients using Accutane.  In 2003, based on information collected from many different countries, the European Agency for Evaluation of Medicinal Products standardized the product summary.  According to this summary, Accutane is to be used exclusively for severe cystic acne and only as a second line of defense. There are very specific dosage requirements and it is to be used as a single treatment for 4-6 months.  A second course of treatment may be administered under necessary circumstances as deemed by the physician.

New acne treatments are currently being tested that include diet control, anti-inflammatory agents (leukotrienes), bacterial vaccines, and peptidase inhibitors.  The peptidase inhibitors seem to be the most promising so far.  Clinical trials are underway but their results may be 5-10 years down the road.

If you have experienced Inflammatory Bowel Disease, depression, suicidal thoughts, birth defects, or any other Accutane side effects you may be entitled to financial compensation. You may want to contact an Accutane lawyer to see if you qualify for legal assistance.  Accutane lawsuits are currently being filed around the country.


Susan Ardizzoni, Ph.D. holds a Doctorate in Biology with a major in Neuroscience (medical) and minors in Biochemistry, Physics, and Mathematics with experience in basic and clinical research.  Although the author is not an attorney, this article was sponsored by the law firm of Bernstein Liebhard LLP and constitutes Attorney Advertising.  To learn more about Accutane side effects or Accutane lawyer please visit

Published November 17, 2011 by