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Accutane May Not Increase Depression

Study Shows Teens Taking the Acne Drug Had Less Depression Than Those Getting Other Treatments

Brain Imaging Studies

But Emory University psychiatrist J. Douglas Bremner, MD, who also studies Accutane, says the latest study was too small to answer many questions about whether Accutane causes depression. Of the 132 patients enrolled, 59 were treated with Accutane and 73 were prescribed antibiotics and topical creams.

Bremner says a study of at least 1,000 patients is needed to either prove or disprove the link between Accutane and depression.

The psychiatrist says his own recent imaging research shows that Accutane causes changes in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is associated with emotion. The research was published last month in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Bremner found significant changes in the area of the brain known as the orbitofrontal cortex in 13 adults taking Accutane. No such changes were seen in a similar number of adults taking antibiotics.

But a Roche spokeswoman tells WebMD there is no consensus in the scientific community that the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain controls depression and mood. She added that there was no difference in depression symptoms between the people in Bremner's study taking Accutane and those taking antibiotics.

All the Evidence They Need

The lack of clinical proof has done nothing to change the views of those who blame Accutane for the suicide of a loved one.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is among the drug's most outspoken critics. Stupak's 17-year-old son, B.J., shot himself in May of 2000, and Stupak says he believes Accutane is responsible. The legislator has been working to get tighter controls on Accutane ever since.

The mother of a teenager who killed himself by flying a Cessna airplane into a Florida high-rise office building in January 2002 is also convinced that Accutane caused her son's death.

And a grieving father in Ireland has reportedly spent more than $1 million of his own money attempting to prove that Accutane is linked to suicide. Liam Grant's 19-year-old son, also named Liam, took his own life in 1997 while studying engineering at Dublin University.

The elder Grant is now suing Roche and hopes to force the drug company to release confidential information about Accutane.

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