Acne drug is safe - experts

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The Independent Online
EXPERTS warned yesterday that a backlash against the acne drug, Roaccutane, following the suicide of an 18-year-old student who was taking it, could cost more lives than it saved.

The danger of depression and suicide caused by the socially stigmatising condition outweighed the potential risks of the drug which were still unproven, they said.

David Tebby, a sixth-former from Gwent, South Wales, threw himself off a multi-storey car park while on a course of the drug. After the inquest into his death on Wednesday his parents threatened to sue Roche, manufacturers of Roaccutane, for failing to include the same warning about the risk of depression and suicide that has been included in American packs of the drug since February.

Roche has received more than 80 reports of suicide and attempted suicide linked to the drug, but says there is no proof that Roaccutane was the cause. It agreed the change to the American labelling with the US Food and Drug Administration following reports of 24 cases in which the patients' mental state improved when taken off the therapy and worsened when therapy re-started. A spokesman for the FDA said: "To us that is an important clue."

Dr Hywell Williams, consultant dermatologist at University Hospital, Nottingham, who specialises in adolescent acne said he had treated more than1,000 patients with Roaccutane. "Many patients with acne are profoundly depressed. My gut feeling is the risk of mental illness is far greater from withholding Roaccutane than from giving it appropriately.

"Of the patients I have treated, the thing they have volunteered about their mood is that they feel a damn sight better because, having struggled with the disease for years, at last they have found something that shifts it."