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Ulcerative Colitis from Acne Meds: "My Career Has Stagnated"

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Walmer, South AfricaAccutane inflammatory bowel disease can, and does, happen anywhere. And even while Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., the manufacturer of Accutane removed their original version from the market in 2009 due to 'market pressures,' the medication designed to treat severe acne is still available in generic form [isotretinoin, which is a form of vitamin A], and continues to be sold outside the US as Roaccutane by Hoffmann-La Roche.

Jane Sonekus is from Walmer, South Africa. But her story could easily have happened here. Sonekus was writing to a local newspaper column dispensing legal advice in her native country. Here's what she wrote:

"My doctor has prescribed medication for acne and as a result I have developed ulcerative colitis. I have had a partial removal of the large bowel. I was not warned of these side effects and the doctor has absolved himself from any responsibility, claiming I have to sue the manufacturer. I have been unable to work. As a result, my career has stagnated and I fear because of all the sick leave I have taken, I may be boarded."

While the writer did not specifically identify the acne medication she was on, it is inferred based on the symptoms she describes that the South African woman had been a patient of isotretinoin, which has been linked to inflammatory bowel disease. Sonekus may have taken Roaccutane or any number of generics. Hypothetically, if Sonekus was in the US she may have taken Accutane here prior to its removal from the market, and thus may have suffered from Accutane IBD.

Accutane was introduced in 1982 and thus remained on the market for 27 years prior to being pulled in the US in 2009. But Accutane has roots going all the way back to the 1930s, when high doses of fat-soluble vitamin A were used as an early treatment for acne. Hoffmann-La Roche has been competing against generics since 2002, when its patents for Accutane acne medication expired.

While referencing 'market forces' as the primary reason for pulling Accutane from the US market in 2009, Hoffmann-La Roche was facing numerous Accutane class-action lawsuits and fielding calls from Accutane lawyers.

And there remains a steady stream of Accutane patients decrying the acne medication and the effect Accutane has had on their health.

One former acne sufferer from Maryland told back in May that she had taken Accutane as a teenager for acne. Now 44 years of age, the writer was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis last year.

It should be noted that all drugs harbor side effects, and that the basis for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is that the benefits of a drug outweigh the risks. However, Accutane attorneys say their clients claim they had no idea that a medication designed to treat their skin, could have such a devastating and debilitating effect on their internal digestive and bowel systems.


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