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Birth Defects Still Happening With Accutane

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Only about a fifth of women correctly interpreted the symbol to mean that they should not take the medication while pregnant or not get pregnant while taking the medication. Others interpreted it to mean that the package contained birth control medication or simply that the package contained drugs or medicine.

Both studies are published in the August 2001 issue of the medical journal Teratology.

"Most concerning was that about a third of study participants thought that the symbol indicated the drug was a contraceptive, which might decrease their efforts to use other methods of birth control", says Lyon-Daniel, who is a behavioral scientist from the CDC's Birth Defects and Pediatric Genetics branch of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

"We can't take for granted that just because a symbol has been put on a drug that everyone interprets the symbol in the same way," says Jonca Bull, MD. "Contraception and absolute vigilance is so critical with a drug [like Accutane] that has such a high risk of [producing birth defects]. The drug is commonly used by individuals in their peak reproductive years. As we all know, acne is basically a disease of young people."

Bull is acting director and deputy office director for the office of drug evaluation at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research of the FDA in Rockville, MD.

Hoffman-LaRoche, in collaboration with the FDA, is currently developing a stepped-up program to improve public awareness of the risks of taking Accutane while pregnant.

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