Accutane May Not Increase Depression
Study Shows Teens Taking the Acne Drug Had Less Depression Than Those Getting Other Treatments
WebMD News Archive
Known Risks continued...
A statement published earlier this month by the FDA notes that the agency
continues to assess reports of suicide or suicidal attempts associated with the
use of Accutane. The statement also calls on physicians to be vigilant about
following their patients taking the drug closely for signs of depression.
The latest study was conducted by Siegfried and colleagues from St. Louis
University Health Sciences Center without financial backing from Roche
The researchers used standardized tests to evaluate depression levels among
teens with moderate to severe acne -- before beginning Accutane and while on
the drug. Another group of teens who took antibiotics instead of Accutane for
their acne were also evaluated.
Roughly 14% of the teens in the Accutane group and 19% of those in the
antibiotic group had scores suggestive of depression before beginning
treatment. Three to four months later about 8% of the teens taking Accutane and
15% of those taking antibiotics had similar scores.
Siegfried says it just makes sense that teens who feel better about the way
they look will be less depressed.
"I have seen it over and over in my practice," she says.
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
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
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.