Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey & Southampton North has called for better clinical guidance for the controversial acne treatment Roaccutane, more studies into the drug, but urged the Government to resist calls to ban it. The drug, hailed as a miracle cure by some, has been criticised by those who claim a link between its use and mental health problems in users.
Roaccutane, also known by the name Isotretinoin, is prescribed for sufferers of severe acne, and has remarkable results for those whose life is blighted by bad skin. However, some claim the drug should be banned because some users have suffered from depression, mental health problems and in some cases gone on to commit suicide whilst using the drug.
But, Caroline sounded a warning against banning it without the link being clearly established, and pointed-out no academic study had yet clearly established if such a link exists.
“Severe acne doesn’t just scar the face or the body, it scars the mind. Many acne sufferers endure emotional and mental health problems as a result of their skin. Many isolate themselves, suffer anxiety, feel shame and humiliation, and even have their employment prospects affected. For them, Roaccutane is a life-line. The voice of the patient must be heard in this debate. But so far, that hasn’t happened because of emotive calls for it to be banned.”
Pointing to academic research which shows the positive mental health impacts Roaccutane has on sufferers of severe acne, Caroline called for more research to properly establish if there is a link between Roaccutane and depression, demanded better clinical guidance on its use, and revealed her own personal experience of the drug.
“I have had two courses of Roaccutane. It revolutionised my skin, and gave back some of the self-confidence which poor skin had taken from me. I accept there are questions about the drug, and certainly the way it is prescribed and monitoring must be uniformly excellent. But a blanket ban could cause more mental health problems than it is alleged to create, because suffering from bad skin is utterly miserable and soul destroying. Unlike the unproven link between Roaccutane and depression, there is already a clear link between severe acne and mental health issues.”
Her support for the drug comes after a Parliamentary debate and media coverage has called for the drug to be banned. Caroline’s controversial stance has been supported by clinicians who say banning the drug without firstly establishing the link would be counterproductive.
“I have been approached by dermatologists and patients and begged to speak-out in support of better research, better clinical guidance but the continued availability of the drug. I felt the best way to do that was be honest about my own experience of using it, and the hugely positive impact it had on my life” said Caroline.