Accutane, while known to be effective against severe acne, has been associated with suicide for over a decade. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not require a "suicide attempt" warning to be listed with the drug until 2000, the French equivalent made this warning mandatory in 1997.
The most well known suicide case that is associated with Accutane is that of Bart Stupak Jr., son of United States congressman Rep. Bart Stupak. The 17-year-old boy, a varsity high school football player, was not prone to depression, exhibited no signs of suicidal thoughts, yet killed himself by gunshot on the night of his prom.
Since then, over 100 reports of suicide claim to be linked to Accutane, though Congressman Stupak believes the number to be far higher, once stating: "We are up over 100 reports, that's just what is coming in to us, so I believe there are probably over a thousand cases."
With suicide, there is a period of depression that foreshadows the ultimate danger. Signs of depression include loss of appetite, unexplained irritability, unusual fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and just overall sadness. However, Congressman Stupak was quoted: "The average time is 88 days from when you start taking it, and the effect is very sudden... You are doing strange things at 3 a.m. and you are dead at 7 a.m.", emphasizing that there may be little to no warning.
As of April 2010, Accutane is no longer available for purchase as a new prescription. This is due, not only to reports of suicide, but also reports of major medical issues including birth defects, gastrointestinal disorders, as well as depression.
Those who currently use it or its generic, isotretinoin, are advised to watch for any symptoms of depression, as well as any loss of interest in normal daily activities, or thoughts of hurting themselves or others, and to discontinue use of the drug if there are any signs.
There are many lawsuits currently filed against Roche Pharmaceuticals for failing to disclose the possibility of psychotic side effects, in addition to downplaying the dangers that were known to be associated with the drug.