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Accutane Linked Heart, Liver Woes


5 Star

Accutane Linked Heart, Liver Woes

Our Review Summary

This article did a good job of presenting the research observation that in individuals who take isotretinoin for the most severe form of acne there was a higher than expected percentage who developed elevations of triglycerides, cholesterol, or liver enzymes. The article was clear that these elevations had been previously observed but the point of the study was that they were more common than expected. The article presented a useful framework to help readers to understand what these elevations mean in terms of disease risk. It would, however, have been helpful to note that isotretinoin is typically reserved for severe acne because of the potential risk for adverse effects such as those presented in this article, and that other treatments have fewer risks and may sufficiently control the acne.

This was a well rounded report on isotretinoin, its benefits in terms of acne treatment and its potential for harms. A solid, five-star story, and in only 568 words.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


Article mentioned cost of $10-15/day, and the drug is typically used for a year.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story explained the benefits of treating disfiguring acne. Although including the clinician claim that patients have said “You’ve saved my life with this drug” is perhaps a bit over the top.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The risks of birth defects from isotretinoin as well as the risks of abnormal lab tests were presented. The story made clear that an abnormal lab test does not necessarily mean disease.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The article referenced a study in the Archives of Dermatology, from which the data in the article were drawn. The article included the number of patients studied as well as the percentage which went on to develop elevated levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, or liver enzymes.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


This story did a good job of presenting the abnormal lab results in a framework that explained that the results were simply that and, though they were worth keeping tabs on, were not absolute guarantee of serious disease.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


Besides the information in the research article, this story included additional information about cost and some details about the teratogenic effects of isotretinoin and the FDA patient register as a step to help eliminate this source of birth defects. The one clinician quoted was not involved in the study reported on but had previously been a consultant for the drug manufacturer. It might have been better to have a comment from someone without links to the particular drug company making the product reported on. The story mentioned that company representatives did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

While this story was not about the treatment of acne per se but rather about possible side effects from a particular treatment, alternative treatments do exist for severe acne and these could have been mentioned. They include oral antibiotics and, in women, some hormonal therapies in addition to the typical topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, retinoids and topical antibiotics among others. Accutane is typically reserved for severe acne because of the potential risk for adverse effects such as those presented in this article. Other treatments have fewer risks and may sufficiently control the acne.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


From the story, it was clear that isotretinoin is an FDA approved medication for the treatment of severe acne.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story reported on a population based study that found triglyceride, cholesterol, and liver enzyme elevations occurred more commonly than previously predicted based on data from clinical trials. The article accurately presented this observation.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory


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