In 2019, 12 patients who had been prescribed Roaccutane were reported deceased. Out of the 12 patients, 10 committed suicide. While families of the patients claim that the deaths were linked to the drug, the National Health Service (NHS) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) claim that there is no direct relation between the drug and the deaths. A team of experts is to be appointed to determine the link between the drug and patient suicide.
Acne drug Isotretinoin is sold under the names Roaccutane as well as Accutane in the United Kingdom. Both brands are considered to be miracle drugs when it comes to clearing acne. NHS usually prescribes the drug to patients after all other medicines fail to have any result.
Even though the NHS claims that the drug is used as a last line of treatment, the number of patients being prescribed the drug has increased over the years.
It is estimated that each year, around 30,000 patients have been prescribed Isotretinoin. According to the NHS Digital data, the number of users between 2008 and 2018 increased from 34,283 to 69,040.
Last year, five patient suicides were reported and the number increased to 10 in 2019. Data taken from the MHRA's yellow card reporting scheme shows that in 2019, 12 patients taking the medicine died, while there were "85 serious incidents and 19 non-serious ones". A total of 88 deaths have been reported since the records began.
When patients are prescribed the drug, they get a patient information leaflet. A section of the leaflet warns patients that some patients develop suicidal tendencies after taking the medication. The warning also states that these patients do not appear to show signs of depression.
The Guardian reported that families of Annabel Wright, Luke Reeves, and Jack Bowlby blame the drug for their suicides.
MHRA pointed out that the drug is under constant review in the UK and the rest of Europe. The recent deaths have initiated the reconvening of the Isotretinoin Expert Working Group. The group will examine patient deaths and consider if further regulatory actions are necessary.