Accutane (isotretinoinum) is an organic chemical, an all-trans-retinoic acid stereoisomer (thitytin), used to treat various acne strains. It belongs to the retinoids. Accutane may be considered a vitamin A derivative. The drug is used to treat concentrated acne, cystic acne, acne vulgaris, moderate to very severe acne, non-antibiotic therapy for acne with seborrhea, tendency to scarring, frequent recurrences.
While not being a life-threatening condition, acne can significantly affect the lives and self-esteem of people. At the moment, there exist numerous drugs and creams that are created to solve various skin issues, so your medical advisor is able to choose the one for you depending on the severity of your condition. Accutane is among the most widely prescribed drugs to treat severe acne, and if you have ever seen Accutane before and after pictures you know exactly why, as some changes in the skin are quite astounding. But, there are also some things that you should keep in mind before taking this medication and while your treatment course continues.
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Accutane and its influence on the skin
What is Accutane? It is a drug intended for the treatment of severe forms of nodular acne, which features the active ingredient Isotretinoin. The medication belongs to the group of retinoid, which basically means that it is a form of vitamin A. Initially developed by Roche Holding AG as the chemotherapy medication, the drug was proven effective in the treatment of acute acne and quickly became marketed as such.
Another question that interests acne sufferers is how does Accutane work? The way this medication delivers the results is by reducing the amount of oil produced by the glands in your skin, and also it allows the skin to get renewed at a faster rate, thus decreasing the presence of blemishes. It should be noted that a consultation with a medical advisor is always required before deciding to take this drug and it is usually prescribed when antibiotics or milder acne medications fail to provide the desired effect. Nodular acne is characterized by the red and swollen bumps under the skin, which can be a quarter of an inch in size and even larger. If no measures are taken to treat the skin condition, the presence of acne may lead to severe scarring.
Selecting the right dosage for safe treatment
Similarly to other drugs, the exact Accutane dosage should be determined by your doctor based on the severity of your condition and your health. The standard dosage of Accutane is 0.5-1.0 mg per kg a day taken in two separate dosages with meals while the usual duration of the treatment is 15 to 20 weeks. You should not take the drug in a single dose once a day, as the safety of such consumption is debatable. Dosages lower than 0.5 mg/kg are not recommended as they increase the risk of additional treatment despite initially providing satisfying results. In severe cases of adult acne accompanied by scarring, the dosage may be increased to 2.0 mg per kg a day, but only if lower dosage didn’t bring the desired Accutane results and there are no contraindications and signs of adverse reactions.
The pills of Accutane should be swallowed whole without chewing or crushing and necessarily with food to ensure a proper level of absorption. The initial dosage of the drug may be adjusted by your medical advisor during the treatment depending on your personal response to this acne medication.
You should not consume the drug longer than recommended and increase the dosage without consulting your doctor. In some cases when there is a significant improvement of the condition, the treatment may be stopped before a patient completes 15 to 20 weeks of taking Accutane.
Are there any contraindications to taking Accutane?
Before deciding to take any medication, it’s important to take a closer look at all the potential contraindications to avoid any problems in the future. When it comes to Accutane, the first essential step is to check the list of the ingredients to determine whether there are any active (Isotretinoin) or inactive ingredients that can cause you to experience allergic reactions.
Before taking this medication, you should provide your healthcare professional with the detailed information regarding any recent surgeries and the overall state of your health. After a physical examination and a consultation, your medical advisor will be able to decide whether Accutane is the drug that will be beneficial in your particular situation.
The conditions that you should be especially careful with when taking Accutane, include:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- High levels of cholesterol
- A history of mental issues and depression
- Any eating disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Various intestinal problems and inflammations
- Liver diseases
These are some of the most common problems that can be aggravated by the use of Accutane, which is why it’s important to mention all of your possible health issues so that your doctor can assess the risks of taking this drug.
Avoid taking Accutane during pregnancy
One of the biggest contraindications to taking Accutane is pregnancy, which means that all females should make sure that they are not pregnant and don’t plan on becoming pregnant while taking this drug. The reason why the drug should never be consumed during pregnancy is that even a single pill can lead to severe Accutane birth defects in babies.
All women who want to undergo the treatment using Accutane have to take a pregnancy test a month before starting to take this drug to ensure that it is negative. Besides that, this process is repeated before each refill, and you have to continue using your birth control methods for a month after you stop taking Accutane. It should be noted that even women with tied tubes have to use birth control during the treatment.
To prevent the possibility of women becoming pregnant while taking the medication, all female patients are required to use at least two forms of birth control (primary and secondary) during their treatment. For instance, a woman may choose to use birth control pills that contain estrogen (primary protection) in combination with a male condom with spermicidal gel (secondary protection). Progesterone mini pills that do not include estrogen should not be used as a birth control method, as they may not provide an adequate level of protection while taking Accutane.
All of these precautions are taken to exclude any possibility of becoming pregnant. If you happen to have unprotected sex while you take Accutane, you should stop taking the drug immediately and get in touch with your medical advisor.
You should not consume Accutane if you’re breastfeeding without consulting your healthcare specialist as it is still unclear whether the drug passes into breast milk.
Important drug interactions to keep in mind
Drug interactions should never be taken lightly as consuming the medications that do not go well together may increase the risk of potential adverse reactions or simply make one or several drugs that you take less effective. Before taking Accutane, make sure to mention all the drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements that you may be taking at that moment to your doctor.
Here are some of the herbs, vitamin, and medications you’re advised to avoid if you’re consuming Accutane:
- Vitamin A
- Systematic corticosteroids
- John’s Wort herb
When it comes to Accutane and alcohol, the consumption of alcoholic beverages may increase the risk of experiencing adverse reactions, such as skin redness, fast heartbeats, nausea, and vomiting. In such a way, it is recommended to avoid drinking alcohol while undergoing the treatment.
What are the possible adverse effects of taking Accutane?
When taking any medications, it’s important to realize that they are always accompanied by the risk of potential adverse effects, which can be caused by the drug interactions, individual sensitivity to the components, overdosing, and other factors, including the diseases that are already present. When it comes to Accutane for acne side effects they can range from mild to quite severe, so you should never increase the dosage of the drug on your own, and if you notice any unusual symptoms, inform your doctor without hesitation.
The minor and common Accutane side effects include:
- Mild headache
- Skin sensitivity and dryness
- Eye dryness
- Upset stomach
Quite common, but more severe adverse effects of taking Accutane are:
- Redness and burning of the lips
- Different types of eye inflammations
- Joint pain
While some of the mentioned symptoms may seem tolerable, you should still inform a healthcare specialist about them, as you may require an adjustment of the dosage. It ensures that you don’t develop Accutane long term side effects, which will be much more difficult to treat.
In some cases, the consumption of Accutane may lead to major adverse effects, which are usually the result of an irresponsible approach to taking the drug and not following all the safety precautions.
The severe side effects of Accutane include:
- Birth defects, if a woman doesn’t use birth control and gets pregnant
- Thoughts of suicide in patients suffering from depression
- Vision and hearing changes
- Rectal bleeding
- Gums inflammation or bleeding
- Severe stomach pain
- Ulcerative colitis
- Bloody diarrhea
- Inflammatory bowel diseases
- Kidney and liver damage
To decrease the risk of these adverse effects, patients are required to pass a number of tests to determine the levels of liver enzymes, blood lipids, glucose, and some others, before starting the treatment. Other laboratory tests may be required depending on the patients’ complaints and their history of diseases.
Reasons for Accutane lawsuit
Accutane has been a popular medication for the treatment of acne since its introduction to the market by Roche Pharmaceuticals in 1982. At the same time, a lot of people have already heard about Accutane lawsuit, which led the company to stop producing the drug in 2009. Actually, there were not one but numerous lawsuits against the company, and some of them are still pending. A lot of patients who have filed suits against the drug manufacturer experienced various lasting adverse effects, which were linked to the consumption of Accutane. The main reason stated by people is that the pharmaceutical company didn’t provide sufficient information regarding the potential adverse effects of the drug, which are widely known nowadays, such as Crohn’s disease, depression, and bowel inflammation.
The discontinuation of the drug has coincided with the expiration of the patent, and at the moment, there are numerous generic Accutane versions available for you to choose from under different names but featuring the same active ingredient – Isotretinoin.
Is generic Accutane different from the original option?
As it was mentioned previously, original brand-name Accutane has been discontinued, which means that any other drugs that you can purchase nowadays for the treatment of acne that contain the same active and inactive ingredients are generics. If you’re not familiar with generics, they are the medications produced by other manufacturers once the patent protecting the drug expires and an original producer is no longer the only one who can create the medication.
A lot of people are suspicious about generics, but if you choose a reliable manufacturer, there is no need to be worried. What is great about high-quality generics is that buying them allows you to save money while getting the same results, so you shouldn’t be surprised by the lower Accutane cost. According to the requirements to the generics, they have to contain the same ingredients to ensure identical results as if you were consuming an original medication. At the same time, the packaging design and name of the drug should be different as they are protected by the copyright law and cannot be replicated by a company other than the one that came up with them.
The same applies to Accutane, so you won’t find generics under this particular name, even though it is the same medication. According to generic Accutane reviews, people who consumed a brand-name version of the drug previously haven’t noticed any difference in how the drugs work, but it’s always important to find a reliable provider of the medication so that you can be confident in its quality.
Accutane storage requirements
Taking care of the proper storage space for the medication should always be your priority. Improper storage conditions may lead to early drug expiration, and thus cause side effects when consumed. Accutane should be stored at the room temperature (about 60 to 86 degrees F) in a closed container and away from the direct sunlight, moisture, and heat. Also, it’s important to store it in a place where neither children nor pets can reach it. If you notice some changes in how the pills normally look, throw them away and do not use them in your treatment.
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