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Roche Puts Accutane Profits Over Lives of Consumers

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Message Evelyn Pringle
In 1985, Accutane's package insert directed at doctors first mentioned reports of depression in patients taking the acne drug, which means that more than 20 years ago, Hoffman-LaRoche at least suspected there might be a risk of depression and suicide by persons taking the drug.

However, Roche's financial records show that the company is not about to let a little thing like the death of its customers get in the way of corporate profits, because the drug is still a best seller and young people with no history of depression who take it are still killing themselves.

On November 14, 2004, BBC News reported that Jon Medland, 22, in the final year of medical school at Manchester University, hanged himself at his student lodgings on January 13, 2004 while on Accutane.

When questioned about the incident, Roche told BBC News that the drug carried a warning of possible mood changes and depression, but said "no causal link had been established between the drug and either depression or suicide."

Less than a year later, in September 2005, BBC News reported that David Roberts, 21, had been on the drug for two months when he hanged himself near his Liverpool home.

And once again, according to BBC News, "Roche insists there is no proven relationship between the drug and depression."

However, David's father, Fred Roberts, said he could think of no other explanation for the tragedy. "David was the most happy-go-lucky, carefree lad you could ever hope to meet. He had plenty of friends, he enjoyed going out, he had a happy family life."

"His acne wasn't severe at all. He had a few spots and, like any young person, he wanted to get rid of them."

"The change in him was so sudden," Mr Roberts said, "there's no other reason for it than the effect of this drug."

On January 15, 2006, 15-year-old Justin Zimmer, of Menasha, Wisconsin, shot himself and his parents blame Accutane.

Justin's parents and a friend told the Appleton Post Crescent on July 18, 2006, that he gave no indication that he was depressed and that he was all excited about getting his driver's license in a couple of weeks.

Roche's comments to the BBC are clearly dishonest considering that in 1986, doctors were notified that Accutane users who became depressed saw their depression lift when they stopped taking the drug but return when they were placed back on the medication. Doctors were also informed that simply stopping Accutane therapy might not be sufficient to treat the depression and that follow up on the depression might be necessary.

In 1998, the FDA notified doctors that Accutane, "may cause depression, psychosis, and rarely, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide."

The agency issued a MedWatch alert in February 1998, that said due to the adverse event reports received, the FDA felt there was sufficient cause to strengthen the warning on the Accutane label to include the risk of psychosis and suicidal thoughts and actions.

The February 23, 1998, FDA Memorandum, "Isotretinoin and Depression: Spontaneous Report Data," listed 31 cases of suicide, suicide attempt or suicide ideation associated with Accutane. Of those cases, 12 were suicides, 9 were male, 2 were female, and 1 unknown, and the average age was 17. The event occurred on average, 88 days after the patient started taking the drug.

The FDA acknowledged in the memorandum that for "the majority, there was no antecedent history of depression and the patients were not noted or known to be depressed in the time period prior to their suicide."

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Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America.
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