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Common acne drug causes severe birth defects and miscarriages when used by pregnant women... so why is it still legal?

Acne medication

(NaturalNews) Zika might be dominating the headlines as the media and scientists publicize a possible link to birth defects, but a common acne drug can also cause severe birth defects and miscarriages, and many women are ignoring the warnings. The problem is so dramatic that countries like Canada have launched official programs to prevent pregnancy in women taking the drug. Given its dangerous potential, why is this drug still legal?

The drug in question, Accutane, is manufactured by Roche and comes from a class of drugs known as retinoids, which can affect the way in which the body reads genes. Its generic name is isotretinoin. More than 13 million people are estimated to use Accutane globally each year.

The drug is known to harm fetuses and reduce the amount of brain cells they generate. Precautions are typically taken to ensure that women who are currently pregnant or might become pregnant avoid the drug, but these programs have not generally been successful.

For example, a recent study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that among the women studied who take Accutane, 30 to 50 percent of them did not comply with the requirements of the program.

The study's lead author, Dr. David Henry, said: "Poor adherence with the Canadian pregnancy prevention guidelines means that Canada, inadvertently, is using pregnancy termination rather than pregnancy prevention to manage fetal risk from isotretinoin."

He added, "It appears that not all doctors and patients are sticking closely to the guidelines to prevent pregnancy during treatment with isotretinoin."

Some of the damage it can cause to a fetus includes cardiac, central nervous system and craniofacial defects. It also causes a high possibility of miscarriage or the need for medical termination. Half of all isotretinoin prescriptions written in Canada are for females, and the average age of its users is 24, so it's easy to see why this is such a big problem.

Two birth control methods recommended

The Canadian program calls for two negative pregnancy tests to be shown before starting the treatment, and patients must be provided with informed written consent. In addition, it is recommended that they use two reliable methods of birth control throughout treatment, although the period of exposure actually extends beyond the time that treatment ends. According to patient records from nearly 60,000 women taking the drug between 1996 and 2011 in Canada, 1,473 pregnancies occurred, and 118 of them resulted in live births. Nine percent of those live births had congenital abnormalities.

Moreover, the researchers found that only between 25 and 33 percent of women actually filled birth control prescriptions while they were taking the drug, which was the same rate as that noted prior to the implementation of the program. While this does not include people who obtained birth control pills outside of plan coverage or those who turned to intrauterine devices, it is still an alarming statistic.

Numerous studies have shown a similarly poor performance in following the drug's pregnancy prevention guidelines in other countries.

Other Accutane side effects just as bad, if not worse

Retinoids have also been connected to schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. The World Health Organization has reported more than 700 cases of psychiatric problems that are linked to Accutane use, 84 of which are suicides or attempts at suicide.

The drug has also been linked to other serious side effects, such as acute pancreatitis, hepatitis, sight loss, night blindness, internal skull pressure and psychosis.

After being hit with a number of lawsuits, Roche decided to stop marketing the drug, but this falls quite short of doing the responsible thing and pulling the drug off the market altogether. As usual, it's all about the bottom line.

Those who suffer from severe cystic acne are understandably eager to treat it, and thankfully there are a number of natural approaches that can be taken. Accutane's active ingredient is actually a synthetic form of vitamin A. The natural form can be found in foods such as carrots, goji berries, cilantro, broccoli, kale and sweet potatoes. Red palm oil is one of the best natural sources of vitamin A precursor beta-carotene. None of these foods will make you go crazy, kill yourself or give birth to a child with severe defects.

As long as drug companies continue to push dangerous drugs on the masses, people who care about their health will need to make the effort to stay informed and research safer alternatives. The Natural Medicine, Healing and Wellness Summit is one good source for finding safe ways to treat various ailments.

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