“I can’t find anything to prove that I took Accutane,” says Colin. “I wrote letters to Medicaid, I went to every pharmacy my parents might have used and I phoned a number of dermatologist offices. Unfortunately, my parents don’t remember and I was a teenager when I was prescribed Accutane. So I am at a dead-end right now. But after reading some medical journals proving that there is a definite link to Accutane and colitis, I am determined to find some kind of record.”
Colin, age 35, does remember taking three cycles of Accutane for six months at a time. He also remembers having lower back pains 18 years ago that he thinks were due to the drug. “I was young and didn’t think too much about it - and my goal in life was to get rid of acne: girls were foremost in my mind,” Colin says, laughing. “But I remember the dermatologist telling me it was a strong medication and that I took a very strong dose…
“I had pretty much forgotten about Accutane until a few years ago, when my wife connected the dots for me. And now looking back I realize that I had digestive problems starting in the mid-1990s. I never changed my diet but some foods were wreaking havoc and I was constantly suffering with diarrhea. Again, I didn’t think much of it and just stayed away from dairy and deep-fried foods.”
Colin’s digestive problems escalated. Around 2004, he had severe abdominal pains and found blood in his stool. His doctor chalked it up to stomach flu and prescribed antibiotics, but two weeks later, he was completely dehydrated. “I couldn’t keep down any food; anything I ate went right through me,” Colin says. “I lost about 30 lbs and I’m not a big guy; I am 5' 8" and 155 lbs. I was like a walking skeleton.”
Fortunately Colin had the wherewithal to get a second opinion. He went to the ER, had a CT Scan and was admitted to the hospital. Next morning they took out his appendix but he wasn’t getting any better. After four days in the hospital, he finally saw a gastroenterologist who ordered a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with colitis. And he could have kept his appendix.
Colin asked the gastroenterologist what could have caused this; was it due to his diet? Did certain foods trigger it? “He said they don’t have a handle on what causes colitis or Crohns Disease,” says Colin. “He asked if I was stressed out but that wasn’t the reason. He asked what meds I took but I didn’t think about Accutane.
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“No side effects were ever told to me and there is no way my parents were told. They would never have let me take this drug if they knew there were any side effects,” says Colin. “Now I see my gastroenterologist every few months. He told me that I will be on a number of drugs for the rest of my life; drugs that cost several hundred dollars per month in co-pay. The drugmaker should at least cover my medical bills.”
In 2012, Roche, the maker of Accutane, was ordered to pay $18 million in compensatory damages to two Accutane patients who had developed ulcerative colitis. Accutane settlements have cost Roche millions of dollars and Accutane lawsuits are still being filed.