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Daniel began Accutane therapy on June 25, 1999, three days after his first visit to the Dermatologist. On June 22nd Daniel's Dermatologist told us that the break out was a result of High School stress and even pinpointed the week the stress may have begun, The Dermatologist sent Daniel home with a prescription for Prednisone, Erythromycin, a shopping list that included Purpose Bar, Colladerm Fluid/Gel, Presun Ultra Gel and Vitamin B5.
In addition, we received two brochures that we were to read before starting Accutane therapy, "IMPORTANT INFORMATION CONCERNING YOUR TREATMENT WITH ACCUTANE" and "WHAT YOUNG MEN NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ACNE...AND ITS TREATMENT WITH ACCUTANE." Daniel and I read both brochures and felt that this was something that we needed to do and looked forward to the promising results. This was a very big decision for us, considering we didn't have insurance and was going to be self pay throughout the Accutane therapy, monthly Dermatologist visits and blood tests.
It wasn't long before the side effects started: chapped lips, dry skein and itching, joint and muscle pain, headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, mood swings and insomnia. This was a very difficult summer for Daniel, he didn't even want to leave the house anymore and just wanted to stay in his room all day in bed. On the first day of school Daniel cried as we were driving there, he was 15 at the time going to be a sophomore, he didn't know why he was crying he said he just felt weird. School was very difficult for Daniel this term and he had a very hard time concentrating. Daniel and I went to the Dermatologist every month and we were told that this was all very normal and to be expected, he also assured us that the mood swings were normal and would be going away as soon as the Accutane therapy ended.
On December 11, 1999, Daniel committed suicide.
I called the Dermatologist two days after Daniel passed away and talked to him directly to let him know what had happened and that we wouldn't be making our next appointment, he offered his deepest condolences.
At the time of Daniel's death we knew nothing about Accutane and its Adverse Reactions linked to depression and suicide. It wasn't until 2 months later on February 9th that I discovered that Accutane might have played a role in Daniel's suicide. I was having lunch with friends and a concerned friend mentioned that she had heard that Prednisone may be linked to depression and she knew Daniel was taking it for his acne. As soon as I came home that afternoon I looked for Daniel's entire prescription receipts and started reading everything I could. I got online and used the two key words "ACCUTANE" and "SUICIDE" and found the FDA's MedWatch News dated February 26, 1998, "IMPORTANT NEW SAFETY INFORMATION ABOUT ACCUTANE." I was home alone at the time and just couldn't believe what I was learning for the very first time. In addition, I also discovered that the brochures Daniel's Dermatologist gave us were copyrighted in 1996 and 1997 respectively. The brochures had no Adverse Reactions reporting depression, psychosis, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide. I was finding very hard to believe that Daniel's Dermatologist had no idea or updated information to hand out to his patients.
I have since visited the Pharmacy where Daniel's prescription's were filled and asked the Pharmacist if she knew of any Adverse Reactions associated with Accutane, she was not aware of depression and suicide. She immediately grabbed a 40MG package from the shelf and was surprised to find out that the Depression and Suicide warning was not present on the packaging.
I find it interesting that 5 months after Daniel's suicide, his Dermatologist unexpectedly announces to his patients by way of postcard that he was closing down his practice to teach at Loyola University.
In addition to everything that continues to point that Accutane played a role in Daniel's suicide is a picture that I received from a friend of his the day after Thanksgiving. Looking at this picture brought tears to my eyes, his beautiful smile full of hopes, dreams, and promises had been taken before Daniel started Accutane Therapy. I realized that we have pictures of Daniel before Accutane Therapy (all smiling) and pictures of Daniel on Accutane (no smiles).
As you can imagine this past year has been very painful for our family and the more we research the more we realize that somehow or another our precious son's life fell through the cracks. I am not looking for an out; I do know this for a fact:
- The Dermatologist provided us with outdated information.
- The Pharmacist's didn't provide any patient counseling.
- Renlar Systems and First Data Bank packages insert did not include the most current Adverse Reaction "Suicide".
- Roche's labeling did not include in the warnings "...depression, and rarely suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and suicide..."
- The FDA has allowed Roche to continue to profit from this drug for far to long without taking any responsibility for the damage it continues to do to our children.
- Mistakes were made by many and now we are suffering because this could have been all prevented if everyone did their jobs.
I hope that the limited information I have provided today will somehow make a positive difference in our children's future. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share Daniel's story with you.