Sunday, August 30, 2009

Health news

Accutane No Longer Available

Several of my patients who have been taking Accutane for severe cystic acne were dismayed when Roche, the manufacturer, recently announced that it has stopped making the brand-name version of the drug. The move is not due to any new information about the safety or efficacy of isotretinoin, the active ingredient in Accutane. Rather, the company says that it made the decision for financial reasons. Generic versions of the drug became available in 2002, and at the time it was discontinued, fewer than 5% of isotretinoin prescriptions were filled with brand-name Accutane. The remaining patients received generic versions of isotretinoin, which go by the names Amnesteem, Sotret, and Claravis.

I’ve prescribed isotretinoin for my patients since 1995, and I’ll continue to recommend it to those who suffer from severe, scarring acne that is unresponsive to other treatments. It has truly been a miracle drug for those who have painful, disfiguring breakouts. However, since there are serious potential side effects that have been associated with isotretinoin, including the risk of birth defects, I reserve it for patients who I feel can be responsible and compliant with their medication and follow-up visits. All patients taking isotretinoin must register with an online program called iPledge. This program requires patients to see their doctor monthly for monitoring and bloodwork before it allows pharmacies to dispense the medicine. These requirements will remain for those who are taking generic isotretinoin.

If you are currently taking brand name Accutane, talk to your doctor about what you should do, since you are likely to receive a generic substitute the next time you fill your prescription. Keep track of which generic medication you receive. Some pharmacies may only carry one version, and although they are considered equivalent, sometimes generic medications work differently in a particular patient.