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Isotretinoin (Accutane) - Side Effects That Need Medical Monitoring By Your Physician

Isotretinion (accutane) is a very controversial drug with supporters who say that the drug has literally changed their lives, and with detractors demonizing the drug as an extremely dangerous drug. A simple search on the internet will quickly expose readers to all sorts of views on it from one extreme to the other.

What is not controversial is that isotretinoin is a powerful drug with an extremely potent effect, and one that can have very serious side-effects. In all cases, a doctor will require regular testing, usually involving blood work to ensure your safety.

The serious side-effects can be roughly divided into these categories.


  • Isotretinion is teratogenic-it causes serious fetal abnormalities
  • This drug cannot under any circumstance be taken during pregnancy, and 1 month prior to and following pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy prevention programs are offered, and participation is likely a requirement for taking this drug.
  • A doctor must be consulted.


  • Hyperstosis and osteophytes (bony spurns) may develop, but are rarely of any consequence
  • Bone thinning (osteoporosis) is a possible risk
  • Premature close of bony epiphyses may occur in children, reducing long bone growth


  • Cholestorol and triglyceride levels may increase; this should be followed by your doctor
  • Pancreatitis is a minor risk


  • May be mildly irritating to the liver
  • Liver abnormalities are relatively rare, but should be monitored


  • Pseudotumors in the cerebrum can occur, causing increased brain fluid pressure, headaches, vomiting, and visual disturbances.
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts have been reported in some patients causing controversy, but causal connections have yet to be conclusive.
  • Headaches may occur.


  • Inflammation around the joints and tendonitis
  • Aches and pains around the joints and lower back pain are relatively common
  • These effects are temporary and can be minimized by use of anti-inflammatory medications


  • Leukopenia (reduced ability to produce white blood cells) may occur, but this is rare