Acne Drug Roaccutane Could Lead to More Abortions

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 25 2008 5:29 PM

Using the controversial acne drug Roaccutane could lead to more abortions, according to specialists.

Roaccutane is used for the treatment of severe, persistent acne, but it has made headlines in recent years for its unproven links with depression and suicide.

According to dermatologists, a move by health authorities to allow GPs to prescribe the heavy-duty medication will push up prescription rates and endanger patients.

Dr Stephen Shumack, secretary of the Australasian College of Dermatologists said that there was a risk that patients would not be informed of the dangers of birth abnormalities among babies born to women taking Roaccutane, forcing them to require an abortion.

"This would be a very bad move indeed," the Sydney Morning Hearld quoted Shumack, as saying.

"The college fears that appropriate people may not be given it, inappropriate people may be given it, and the side-effects may not be managed appropriately.

"And, overall, far more people will be given it, which increases the risk of pregnancies, especially if this is not properly screened for, and then there's more abortions," he added.

He said that under current arrangement there had been very few pregnancy issues with the drug.

More than 140,000 prescriptions were written for Roaccutane in the past financial year but prescribing is limited to the nation's 400 dermatologists and specialist physicians.

However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration's national drugs and poisons scheduling committee said that it would consider a proposal to extend prescribing rights to include 18,000 GPs.

Roaccutane manufacturer Roche, and several firms that sell the drug generically, have denied making the request.

Shumack described it as "ill-conceived" and said the college would oppose it.