Editorial: Accutane users need better monitoring

The prescription acne drug Accutane is recognized as one of the best skin treatment medications on the market. Unfortunately, the cost of using the drug can be too high. And it’s not because of the price.

Accutane users are warned that it may cause depression, psychosis or even suicide. Since Charles Bishop Jr., a local teen taking Accutane, flew a Cessna into a Tampa skyscraper Saturday to kill himself, stronger guidelines should be established to monitor the drug’s side effects and those taking it.

Investigators aren’t saying that using Accutane is what caused 15-year-old Bishop to conduct a suicide flight last weekend, but the fact remains the drug could have been a contributing factor.

Toxicology reports on Bishop won’t be available until later this month. But the incident has raised concern about the type of monitoring Accutane patients receive. A warning label isn’t enough.

Those who use the medicine may already be in a state of emotional sensitivity because of their acne condition. Taking a drug that heightens that sensitivity is dangerous.

The Tampa Tribune reported Thursday that there are at least 133 suicide cases of former Accutane users. And because the drug is highly effective and sought after, there are likely to be more unless something is done.

Medical guidelines that call for Accutane patients to receive psychiatric evaluations on a regular basis should be put into place. While day-to-day behavior may seem unchanged – as was the case with Bishop, according to his relatives – a trained professional can do a better job of assessing the need for someone to receive treatment if thoughts of suicide and depression occur.

There is no vaccination for acne. And as long as teenagers and others want normal, healthy skin, there will be a need for acne medications. Doctors should make sure that those available kill the acne – not the patient.