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Thursday, 19 November, 1998, 19:18 GMT
Acne drug in suicide claim
Acne can be a debilitating condition
A Welsh legal firm has been flooded with calls after it applied for legal aid over an acne drug which it claims can cause severe depression and suicide.

Smith Llewellyn, a medical negligence firm in Swansea, says it received dozens of calls on Thursday following newspaper coverage of its plans to sue Roche Products over its drug Roaccutane.

"The number is increasing on an hourly basis," said Pauline Roberts of Smith Llewellyn.

Two weeks ago the firm applied for legal aid to take out a group action against Roche under negligence legislation and the Consumer Protection Act 1988.

It says its decision was prompted by the case of an 18-year-old Newport man who threw himself off a multi-storey building.

The coroner ruled that Roaccutane may have played a role in David Tebby's suicide.

Following the case, Smith Llewellyn was contacted by a person who had also used Roaccutane and attempted to commit suicide.

Disfiguring acne

The drug is used as a last resort for people with severe disfiguring acne and has to be prescribed by dermatologists.

It was put on the market in1982 and its known side effects include increased sensitivity to sunlight and birth defects.

Women taking the drug are warned not to get pregnant.

Pauline Roberts said there was a body of medical evidence which suggested a possible link between the drug and depression and suicide.

When it was first put on sale, it was described as possibly provoking mood changes.

Since 1988, however, the drug carries a label warning that it could have dangerous side effects such as depression, suicide attempts and psychotic episodes.

Pauline Roberts says she believes the labelling is now strong enough, but she says a lot of the people who have called Smith Llewellyn were prescribed the drug before 1988.

And she says many say they did not have severe acne.

She thinks the drug may be being misprescribed and says doctors should be aware that they need to ask patients if they have a history of depression before they prescribe it.

No causal link

She hopes to hear whether Smith Llewellyn has got legal aid for the case in the next two weeks and says the number of people contacting the firm will increase the strength of their case.

Roche said no causal link had been established between taking Roaccutane and depression or suicide.

It said the number of people taking Roaccutane and suffering depression and suicide was "far below the incidence observed in the general population".

"Acne itself can be a risk factor for depression and being a teenager with severe, disfiguring acne - a condition well known to affect mood and self-esteem - further increases this risk," it stated.

See also:

12 Aug 98 | Health
Pollution linked to heart disease
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