Posted by Barbara Ransom on April 1, 2011
Ninety percent of us have struggled with acne. As teens, it can seem like one of our worst enemies. We cleanse, we conceal, we exfoliate, we use topical medications, we pick, we worry. But it still always seems to flare up at the most inopportune moments — like on picture day, prom night, the big homecoming dance or even our wedding day. Many of us continue to struggle with acne well into our adult years.
In 1982, a potent drug call Accutane was developed for severe acne. It is a form of Vitamin A called isotretinoin, which is also marketed under other brand names such as Amnesteem, Claravis and Sotret, as well as available in generic forms. It comes in a capsule, usually taken twice a day and in a matter of months, claims to cure acne. Who wouldn’t want to use such a magic pill?
But look more closely. Isotretinoin has its fair share of side effects, including a high risk of miscarriage and life-threatening birth defects if taken while pregnant. According to the March of Dimes, these birth defects include:
• Hydrocephaly (enlargement of the fluid-filled spaces in the brain)
• Microcephaly (small head and brain)
• Mental retardation
• Ear and eye abnormalities
• Cleft palate
• Heart defects
In fact, isotretinoin has been labeled a Category X drug by the FDA; in 2005, a program called iPledge was started to help regulate and prevent the use of the drug during pregnancy. Part of the iPledge program includes women pledging to use two types of birth control, and take monthly pregnancy tests while using isotretinoin. Pharmacists and prescribers are also required to register with iPledge, so one would hope that we have cut the risk of pregnant women taking isotretinoin to less than a bare minimum.
But Accutane is still easily and readily available over the Internet without a prescription. Even more frightening, sites that sell it contain minimal side effect information and absolutely no instructions about signing up for the iPledge program.
If you are taking isotretinoin and plan to become pregnant, consult your practitioner immediately for information on when to discontinue treatment. Look into other acne treatment options for the brief gestational period, and hope that the natural pregnancy hormones will kick in to give you radiant skin and that gorgeous pregnancy glow.