Saturday, February 18, 2012

Isotretinoin: Rare Side-Effects

Isotretinoin (Acutane, RoAcutane, Sotret, Claravis, Amnesteen) is a true wonder drug that has revolutionized the treatment of severe cystinc acne since its introduction in 1980. Over twenty million people have used it. There are some rare idiosyncratic reactions. We welcome comments here from patients, their families and practitioners.

The index case is a is an outgoing 16 yo girl with severe cystic acne with scarring. She was started on isotretinoin 30 mg per day (0.5 mg/kg per day) after routine lab tests were normal. She was on no other medications and had declined oral contraceptives since she is abstinent.

After two weeks, she reported the onset of vivid nightmares. These involved her being in contact with Nazis who were persecuting Christians. (Her step-father is a minister, and she had been studying the Holocaust at school). There is one reference to dreams on isotretinoin, but no reports of nightmares with the drug in the literature. I elected to continue the medication at the same dose and the nightmares resolved.

At week seven of isotretinoin therapy, she started to experience auditory hallucinations. These occurred at school and at home. The voices at home were telling her to kill herself. She developed a mild nosebleed which is a common isotretinoin side-effect the night before an emergency visit to my office, and reported that the voices told her she might as well "finish the job." Scared, she told her parents.

The drug was stopped and the hallucinations disappeared. At her request, she was rechallenged with 10 mg per day. Within a few days, the auditory hallucinations recurred and isotretinoin was discontinued with resolution of symptoms.

Physicians often tend to discount such reports from patients if the reaction is not documented in our medical literature; however patients need to be heard. This case was recently reported.

How many other patients may have had similar symptoms? Is this a coincidence, or a true neuropsychiatric drug-effect?

Have you had an unusual side-effect with isotretinoin? The VGRD Blog may be used as a vehicle to collect singular side-effects to medications, in this case isotretinoin. All responses will be anonymous. We would like to establish a database for idiosyncratic isotretinoin effects that may help other patients and their care givers.

Reference: The Voice of Isotretinoin

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