Accutane and IBD

Accutane has been prescribed by doctors since the 1980s to relieve symptoms of chemotherapy and to treat severe acne. Since then, thousands of patients have reported serious, debilitating side effects due to Accutane treatment. Side effects noted by patients commonly include gastrointestinal disorders. The American Journal of Gastroenterology reported the connection in 2006, specifically noting the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Because the side effects of Accutane may have been prevented, many patients who have experienced side effects from the treatment have legal options for compensation and damages. So far, over 5,000 personal injury suits have been filed due to the link between Accutane and the development of IBD.

The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly forced Hoffman-La Roche, the manufacturer of Accutane to change the information included on its labels because of the association of side effects. The most recent of these changes is due to IBD. Many patients report development and symptoms of IBD even after their Accutane treatment has ended. Several early symptoms may be brought on by IBD:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Pain in the joints
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
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  • Skin conditions
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fever

Anyone who takes Accutane and experiences any of these symptoms should immediately discontinue the use of Accutane and report the symptoms to their doctor. If a positive diagnosis is given from the doctor, it is beneficial to consult with an attorney.

What is IBD?

IBD is a group of other, more specific disorders that are characterized by inflammation of the intestines. This inflammation is long-lasting and can develop over and over again, even if it should appear to clear up. Symptoms, at first, may appear to be similar to those of the stomach flu. These symptoms include abdominal cramping, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, intestinal bleeding, and rectal bleeding.

Two diagnosable types of IBD exist. They are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis often causes ulcers and inflammation in the large intestine. In most cases, it begins in the rectum and works its way up the colon. Crohn’s disease usually affects the small intestine, but can occur in all portions of the digestive tract, including the mouth, stomach, and colon. Ulcers result from Crohn’s disease that may go away without treatment, but they often recur in the same or other spots over and over again.

IBD Diagnosis

After discovering initial symptoms it is necessary to visit a doctor for final diagnosis. The doctor will determine if it is IBD, and then, determine which type it is – Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. This is accomplished through examination of stool and observing the intestines with a colonoscope. A colonoscope is a long, flexible tube with a camera attached to the end. X-rays may also be required.

IBD Treatment

Treatment of IBD begins with a healthy, balanced diet. Exact details of the diet depend on the exact details of the symptoms. It may include cutting down on dairy and fiber. Proper sleep is required in combination with the proper diet. Plenty of rest is called for. Stress management is also a part of most IBD treatment as stress greatly aggravates any gastrointestinal disorders.

In most cases, treatment will involve more than a single doctor. Besides your family doctor, a specialist in gastrointestinal disorders (gastroenterologist) will be required. Severe cases will also require a surgeon.

Anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed to relieve the inflammation caused by IBD. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to prevent or treat infection of the ulcers. Depending on the severity, some treatments will require a trip to the hospital or doctor’s office. More powerful medications, called immunosuppressants, may also be necessary. If these treatments do not work, surgery will be needed.

Accutane Side Effects

Although Accutane can treat chemotherapy patients and relieve severe acne, it has been shown to cause severe and debilitating side effects. Lawsuits filed on behalf of patients suffering from the side effects of doctor-prescribed Accutane treatment have yielded high awards and settlements of up to $25.16 million. Over 5,000 lawsuits have been filed over bowel problems alone. The side effects of Accutane range from severe to mild, including:

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic medical condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers. Severe cases of ulcerative colitis have been known to cause severe bleeding, rupture of the colon, shock, and even death. After several outbreaks of inflammation, the intestinal wall and rectum will thicken from scar tissue. This results in severe chronic diarrhea. Attacks are often very painful and physically debilitating.

Some cases of ulcerative colitis require hospitalization and surgery. Many patients must have their colon completely removed, resulting in the lifelong use of a colostomy bag for the collection of digested waste.

Accutane users have reported experiencing ulcerative colitis symptoms immediately, while for others it can take months or years. There are several early symptoms of the disease:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Audible gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Urgency to produce a bowel movement following an inability to do so
  • Rectal pain and bleeding
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is another form of IBD. It generally affects the small intestine, but can develop in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Symptoms can sometimes be treated with medication, but, if that fails, surgery is required. Surgery usually includes removal of the affected part of the intestine. Crohn’s disease is incurable. Even if an affected section of intestine or bowel is removed, it can recur in another section at a later time. Crohn’s disease has several symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort, especially in the lower right side
  • Severe Diarrhea
  • Reduced or loss of appetite
  • Bloody stool
  • Ulcers
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Eye inflammation
  • Fistulas and draining pus
  • Rash
  • Liver inflammation
  • Arthritis
  • Stunted growth

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

IBD refers to one of the two specific types listed above: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Over 1 million people in the U.S. suffer from IBD and most of those are from ages 15 to 30. Experiencing any of the following symptoms may be a sign of IBD:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Arthritis or joint pain
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Rash
  • Bloody stools

If several of these symptoms are experienced it is necessary to go to a doctor for a complete professional diagnosis.

Liver Damage/Liver Failure

Several patients who have undergone Accutane treatment have experienced chronic liver damage or even complete liver failure. If enough damage or failure occurs, a liver transplant will be necessary. Liver transplants are extremely expensive and complications can set in unexpectedly. Some early symptoms may be a sign of liver damage:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Unexpected weight gain or weight loss

More advanced stages of liver damage have more severe symptoms:

  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Personality changes
  • Confusion
  • Fluid retention
  • Coma

Other Serious Side Effects

Several other serious side effects have been reported from those who have undergone Accutane treatment:

  • Suicidal thoughts (often leading to fulfillment)
  • Severe depression
  • Birth defects in expectant mothers
  • Allergic reactions

Additional Side Effects

Accutane users have reported the following mild and medium symptoms

  • Severe acne
  • Dry skin
  • Loss of hair
  • Headache
  • Eczema
  • Brittle nails
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Menstrual disturbances and disruptions
  • Muscle pain