Accutane (Isotretinoin) Drug Information
A guide to Roche's anti-acne medication named Accutane (Isotretinoin) including side effects, precautions and costs.
Accutane, created by Roche USA Pharmaceuticals, was approved by the FDA in
1982 and started being prescribed to people suffering from severe
inflammatory and nodular acne.
Accutane is part of the "retinoid" drug family which is a synthetic derivative of Vitamin A.
Oral and topical retinoids work by actually changing the part of your DNA that controls the size and output capacity of your sebum producing sebaceous glands. It also affects the way your shedding skin cells behave and reduces the P. Acnes bacteria, both which are responsible for comedone and inflammatory acne lesions.
A large majority of patients who undergo a single 4-5 month or 16-20 week course of Accutane experience total remission of their acne vulgaris. Some patients require a second course of the drug.
There are special precautions that must be observed for anyone taking Accutane due to the drug's possible effects on the liver and triglyceride levels. Your dermatologist will instruct you to visit a clinic at least once a month where they will conduct a blood test to make sure your body is not reacting adversely to the medication.
Women who may be able to become pregnant are advised to use two forms of birth control while taking Accutane since the drug has known "teratogenicity" effects on an unborn fetus. Basically this means that Accutane and other retinoids derived from or synthesized to behave like Vitamin A, can cause severe birth defects such as mental retardation, cleft lip or palate, eye or ear defects, heart defects, and facial abnormalities. The FDA has placed Accutane on the "Category X" list of drugs which should never, ever, be taken during pregnancy.
Besides the less common serious side effects there are a large number of mild side effects associated with the use of Accutane including dry scalp, dry skin, chapped lips, dry eyes, inability to wear contact lenses, nose bleeds, possible decreased night vision, scaled skin on the hands or arms that looks similar to psoriasis, minor hair loss, sensitivity to sunlight, achy muscles, and skin peeling.
I took Accutane for 6 months (see my Accutane Journal for more details) and I experienced most of the minor side effects. They were a bit of a pain in the you know what, but the discomfort and bother of constantly needing moisturizing products was well worth the results. I had to carry moisturizing lip balm, artificial tears or eye drops, and UV blocking SPF 15 moisturizer cream for sensitive skin with me at all times. Now, 2 years after I finished my course, my face, neck, back and shoulders are completely free of cystic acne nodules. The only side effect that still persists is a bit of eye dryness when I try to sleep with my contact lenses still in. Other than that I'm 100% satisfied with my Accutane experience and I wish that I had taken it in high school when my acne first crossed over into the mild and severe stages.
Although I never experienced any feelings of depression while I was on Accutane, it has been reported that this is a possible side effect. I've even read about a variety of lawsuits filed against the Roche USA Pharmaceuticals company by the families of patients who took their own lives. But then I've also read studies that show that the incidence of depression among Accutane users is the same as that of the general population. I'd also speculate that people who need the drug may already have personal, social and self esteem issues due to their skin disorder. I'd recommend that before you begin taking Accutane that you make sure you have a good support system of family and friends, recognize that your acne may get worse (especially during the infamous initial breakout at the 2nd to 3rd week), and talk to a psychologist or other mental health professional if you feel depressed or just want to talk to someone. Don't be so quick to run to an attorney and file a lawsuit because this drug has helped many young adults overcome acne and reclaim their lives.
Now that I've gone over most of the health information that you should know about Accutane before taking it, let's switch to the financial aspect of this highly effective anti-acne medication.
In 2002, the Roche USA Pharmaceuticals exclusive patent for "Accutane" expired and a variety of less costly generic medications were placed on the market. The active ingredient in Accutane is an oral retinoid named "isotretinoin" that is usually prescribed in 30mg, 40mg, 80mg and 100mg doses either once or twice a day depending on your body weight and acne severity.
The more affordable generic versions of Roche brand Accutane include Sotret (manufactured in India), Claravis (made in the USA), and Amnesteem (product of France).
I'm sure you're wondering, what do Accutane and the generic isotretinoin pills cost per month? That depends on where you live and which product you purchase. My insurance, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Health Options PPO, covered the first two months of my treatment and it only cost me a $40.00 copayment for each monthly supply of the Accutane brand name pills. The next 4 month's cost me $560 each for the generic "Sotret" pills. Without my insurance, the brand name Accutane would have cost me about $700 a month instead of the forty dollar co-pay.
For more information about this drug that dramatically changed my life for the better, read the Accutane Journal and Accutane Frequently Asked Questions pages.
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