At the request of my dear twitter friend Justmiaiam, this post will cover the good, the bad and the ugly of accutane. Unfortunately its mostly bad and ugly... let's dive in. Please note, I couldn't possibly cover all the side effects of this drug, seriously its just that bad.
Accutane is one of 4 brand names for the acne drug generically known as isotretinoin. The remaining 3 brand names are Amnesteem, Claravis and Sotret. So what is it exactly? Accutane is a form of Vitamin A that works by minimizing the amount of natural oil produced by the skin. It is usually prescribed for severe nodular acne after other treatments have proven uneffective. However, a 2 year congressional study found that doctors have prescribed the drug to teens and women with only mild acne symptoms. Accutane is much too powerful for that.
The "bad" side effects:
Some users of Accutane have attributed hair loss (sometimes permanent)to the drug. Because this drug works by altering the oil production and cell regeneration it causes the hair and skin to become extremely dry and fragile which leads to thinning and loss. The hair loss can be anywhere including the eyebrows, eyelashes and scalp. Other users claim that the drug has caused severe back and joint pain that has persisted even after use of the drug has been discontinued. Other "bad" side effects include poor vision, sensitivity to light, dry mucous membranes (nose, lungs, bladder, anus) and depression which could of course lead to more serious problems like psychosis and suicidal thoughts.
Now for the "ugly":
Accutane has been known to cause severe birth defects and miscarriage. This is more than just a notion. In fact, the warning is so strong that the FDA requires patients to be enrolled in iPledge a program that ensures individuals taking the drug are not pregnant and will not become pregnant while on the drug. The iPledge programs requires that patients must be on (2) forms of birth control and must receive regular pregnancy tests before, during and after treatment as any amount of Accutane (no matter how miniscule) can cause severe birth defects. Common birth defects are of baby's ears, eyes, face, skull, brain and heart. So why does Accutane effect the reproductive system so severely? The drug contains parabens which demonstrate estrogenic activity, imbalances of human sexual hormones wreak havoc on the reproductive system. Other "ugly" side effects include stroke, seizures, low white blood count (susceptibility to fungal and bacterial infections)and liver damage... just to name a few.
The moral of the story is... while Accutane may prove effective in treating and clearing acne symptoms long term, the side effects are common and far too severe to risk.