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Accutane & IBD: Is There A Connection?

Published on , Last Updated on June 11, 2013

Accutane and IBD

There is more and more news coming out on the link between people who have taken Accutane and the rise in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This oral pill, also known as Roaccutane or Isotretinion, is a pharmaceutical drug derived from chemical extracts of Vitamin A, or retinol.

On the market since the early 1980’s, it was aimed at helping clear up difficult and chronic cases of skin acne. Used by tens of thousands of people in the United States, this drug has become notorious for its noxious side effects, including skin cracking, bleeding and an inability to withstand sunlight. Today it should come as no surprise that it may be linked to digestive conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

What is IBD?

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but not the same condition) is a serious illness involving the inflammation of the colon and large intestines. Difficult to treat, this inflammation is the result of a colon that cannot operate with its usual control over muscle motility.

This lack of motility leads to spasms in the colon, as well as a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms including inflamed intestinal tissue, blood in the stools, diarrhea, constipation, general bloating and abdominal pain, as well as weight loss from a loss of appetite and general anemia. A serious condition if left untreated, colon inflammation can lead to colon cancer. In fact, studies show that about 5% of IBD sufferers develop colon cancer as a result.

The History of Accutane and IBD

Since 2001, Roche Holdings, the company that created Accutane, has been studying its correlation to IBD in non-public internal research efforts. These documents show that Accutane does directly damage the intestinal tract and that doctors prescribing the drug observed a rise in Inflammatory Bowel Disease in their patients.

Following the onslaught of complaints, the FDA reported the following warning concerning the drug:

“Inflammatory bowel disease: Accutane has been associated with inflammatory bowel disease (including regional ileitis) in patients without a prior history of intestinal disorders. In some instances, symptoms have been reported to persist after Accutane treatment has been stopped. Patients experiencing abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or severe diarrhea should discontinue Accutane immediately.” [1]

Taking Action Against Drug-Makers

Today, hundreds of people are now involved in class action lawsuits against the drug-makers, in an effort to collect compensation for their painful digestive conditions. Sadly, most of these individuals are filing suit because they have had diseased parts of their digestive system completely removed from their bodies.

The first lawsuit against the company began in 2006, and in 2010 Roche Holdings awarded plaintiff Andrew McCarrell an astounding $25 million dollars in compensation after he had large parts of his colon and rectum removed [2]. What is more, due to its multiple negative side effects, the drug was even taken off the market completely in mid-2009 by its manufacturer, Hoffmann-La Roche.

Today, the manufacturer is recalling Accutane completely, especially due to the clear connection (that the company acknowledges) between its use and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. To date, the corporation has paid over $33,000,000 in lawsuit settlements to individuals who link their IBD and IBS to their use of Accutane. While there have been no clinical trials, to date, that prove that Accutane directly causes IBD, it is becoming hard to deny. In fact, some of the symptoms associated with Accutane, as listed by the drug company, are exactly the same symptoms as IBD.

The Future of Acne Medications and Human Health

Today, Accutane has been taken off the market, but an alternate brand labelled “isotretinoin” is currently being freely sold by other companies. Be aware of any drug that claims to get rid of skin conditions such as acne. These conditions usually hold their roots in deeper digestive and stress-related imbalances that need to be corrected through changes in diet, detoxification and lifestyle shifts.

Hopefully one day soon doctors will learn how to treat the root cause of health conditions instead of prescribing toxic medications which address the symptoms and cause other health debilitating conditions.

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM


  1. Roche. Accutane (isotretinoin capsules). NDA 18-662/S-056 .
  2. Associated Press. Accutane lawsuit: Andrew McCarrell wins $25 million after having colon removed. Huff Post New York. 2010 February 16.

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