Dying for clear skin, BBC3, review
My experience started in 2003 when I started university. I had just gone on the pill and within a month I had spots around my jawline. Recently, I have worked out that a spotty jawline is closely linked with your hormones. The Pill, I personally feel was to blame for my onset of spots. I had spent my earlier teens without any spots…minus the odd “monthly spot”. My spottiness has had its ups and downs since September 2003. It came to a head a couple of years ago when it began to detriment my modelling career and in turn my confidence. The doctors prescribed me countless antibiotics, topical lotions and potions which I tried each for a minimum of three months at a time. Nothing ever made it budge, not even a little. I even tried giving up chocolate for three months which was really difficult. Again this didn’t seem to affect my spots. Then I tried alcohol. Again, no change.
With my acne getting worse and worse and more cystic which was very hard to hide with make-up I began to get upset, depressed, lack-confidence and started missing out on modelling jobs which I’m pretty certain was a mixture of my lessening confidence and increasing spottiness. A friend mentioned she had had a similar, yet worse, skin problem when she was younger and after years of trying doctor prescribed medicine, she found out about Roaccutane. After six months her spots had disappeared and still to this day, eight years later, they have never come back and was lucky enough not to have been left with any scaring and has a better complexion than ever.
Having been recommended this “miracle drug” I was both relieved and unimpressed. Unimpressed because whilst my doctor watched me struggle with acne, Roaccutane was not once even muttered and I therefore had never heard of it. On the other hand, I felt an incredible sense of relief and hope that there may be a cure. After asking the doctor to put me on it they said if I wanted to use Roaccutane I had to go to a dermatologists. They didn’t even recommend an NHS dermatologist I simply had to seek one out on my own…off to Harley Street I went!
At the dermatologists I finally didn’t feel rushed as I do at a doctors surgery…probably because I was paying a fortune for this appointment! I also felt like for the first time someone understood my problem and was actually taking it seriously. It was the first time anyone had actually looked at my skin. You’d think I was kidding, but over the last two years worth of visits to the doctors surgery none of the doctors I had seen had ever looked at my skin or even got up from their seat to have a peak.
Almost too easily, my dermatologist recommended I was to be put on Roaccutane, all before I had even mentioned that I knew about it. The dermatologist then took my weight, height and acne history.
I came to my dermatologist appointment incredibly knowledgeable about the drug and he could tell that I knew as much as possible about the pros and cons of Roaccutane. I had a list of at least ten questions (can I drink alcohol, can I sunbath, will my hair fall out etc.) and he answered them easily and I felt confident with everything he said. He was brutally honest with all his answers and said everyone on the drug gets dry skin and dry lips. He then talked about other side effects including the possibility of hair loss which to me, as a model, was the most terrifying thought. Vain I know! He talked me through the depression that can comes with Roaccutane but didn’t think to ask if I had a history of depression in my family or had experienced it myself.
Before I started my course of Roaccutane the dermatologist insisted I signed a pledge that I would not get pregnant during the course (it can cause deformities in an unborn baby). He also said I needed to have blood tests, about ten of them, to check my health. A few of these tests included my iron levels (mostly because I am a vegetarian), liver function and blood count.
My blood tests indicated that my testosterone levels were high and likely to be the cause of my acne. At my appointment with the doctor they explained my results and that was that. They didn’t talk to me about the fact I was about to start Roaccutane. They simply didn’t pay any interest in what was about to entail. I then demanded they were sent to my dermatologist so he could actually talk about it in more depth. The dermatologist then gave me the go ahead to start the drugs.
The Mail on Sunday:
November 18th 2012 in The Mail on Sunday Nikki Murfitt reported an article on Roaccutane and it’s link with suicide. The article is heavily weighted in regarding Roaccutane as being deadly. That is until the last paragraph when they admit more young people commit suicide when not on the drug.
The fact is that everyone is different and reacts differently to different drugs. All medicine comes with a risk of side effects and not many people experience any and rarely get the same side effects as the next person. Therefore, not everyone will commit suicide if they take Roaccutane and the risk is not as high as the majority of this article implies.
Jesse’s email draft said he had lost all interest in anything to do with the opposite sex. This isn’t surprising when is predominately made up of soya and pumps the body full of estrogen, therefore lowering the patients testosterone levels (testosterone is strongly linked to the cause of acne). For a male patient that has not been warned of this I can imagine it is hard to deal with this sudden loss of testosterone and possibly sense of “manliness”.
It is not fair thatJesse’s parents have had to experience such quilt in their sons death. I believe that rather than eradicating this drug from the UK market, doctors should have to do a background check on the patients lifestyle and family. I strongly feel that if a patient were to have a support system at home, being a family member, partner or trustworthy friend the patient would feel secure and supported and doctors can be alerted of the patients change in behaviour. In America Accutane (in the USA Roaccutane is called Accutane, in France Roaccutan) patients are called into their doctors surgery once a month for a check up to include a blood test to check their liver function. I’m not sure if that’s ever done in the UK? I am above the NHS “free prescription” age and no longer a student so is this why I am not gaining any support from my GP whilst on my course of Roaccutane?
I initially started up my blog and Instagram account to document my progress on the drug for myself but today I get hundreds of hits and comments on my blog from people experiencing the same problems as me, or who have come out the other side and pass on their experience to me. My blog currently reaches 31 countries from around the world (most popular in USA, UK and Sweden). It is a lovely feeling that I can help an increasing number of people get through such an upsetting period in their lives.
The support system on Instagram is amazing and has helped me through some tough moments of I.B. (Initial Breakouts), forgetting to take a tablet, aching muscles and sleepless nights. It is a lovely feeling to know that you are not alone and that there are other people out there going through the same thing as you because unless you have experienced sever acne yourself you have no idea how debilitating and traumatic the experience (on or off Roaccutane) can be.
Cystic Nodular Acne:
A lot of patients that take Roaccutane have Cystic Nodular Acne. These are horrific to deal with and can take over your whole face and some people even experience it on their chest and back. It is dreadfully upsetting and there is definitely no chance of squeezing a spot to help it budge, they simply lay there upon your skin for a very long duration. As a girl who loves make up I have tried endless products to try and cover them up but they are impossible to cover with make up because they are very lumpy and create shadows. As the spots increase in size and number your inner confidence decreases and you simply want to hide yourself. I found myself hiding my chin of spots under a scarf and wearing my hair down all day every day to hide behind. It certainly brings you down and makes you depressed, some more so than others.
Doctors have “stages” of acne treatment that they put you through. These treatments range from putting a lotion on your spots once a day to taking a tablet once a day alongside the topical treatment. I have tried almost all of these antibiotics. None of which worked for me. It is a frustrating period of time and with each treatment the doctor wants you to test each for a minimum of three months. This racks up as a long long long time if nothing is working for you. I am sure that if a patient has no success after two years of trying out many different drugs they could be understandably led to depression. I find it frustrating that the doctors barely look at your skin or take your case personally to find out what is wrong and causing your skins problem.
I have researched a lot about cystic acne and it seems to predominately stem from hormone imbalance which is normally high testosterone. This can not be resurrected with a topical treatment, you have to attack it from the inside out which is what Roaccutane does.
“A quick search”:
I have found the newspaper article and the program to be very one sided in being negative about Roaccutane. Surely Nikki Murfitt should not have only done a “quick search” on the drug. If Murfitt had looked deeper into the drugs pros and cons for a national article then I think the article would have a better tone and argument. As a Roaccutane user I have looked extensively into the drugs research and it seems to be 50/50 in its pros and cons, if not more positive success stories than not.
It is actually stated that Jesse did not experience any side effects during his first course of Roaccutane, proving that the drug is very much like a game of “Russian Roulette”. For many of us with severe acne we feel this is a risk we want to take. After watching the show we hear that Jesse was fine until mid way through his second course when he researched side effects on the Internet and that is when his frame of mind switched. I think it is imperative to do your research on the drug before even contemplating using it. My extensive research meant that nothing could shock me and I could mentally prepare myself before starting.
My research has been incredibly extensive and I take as many precautions as possible. I eat an oestrogen rich diet to help aid my Roaccutane tablets. I keep my iron levels high by eating plenty of iron rich food such as curly kale and broccoli to prevent any hair loss from being a vegetarian on Roaccutane. I have even created a wonderful skin are routine using a Clarins face wash which is really delicate, just to get my make up off. A Rimmel eye make up remover to take my eye make up off. I found a 100% organic company called Balm Balm and I use their witch hazel toner to help reduce the size of my pores and their lip balm is an absolute saviour for my lips and has kept them from being very dry.
“Roche failed to adequately warn patients of the risk of bowel problems”:
Once again I must reiterate my suggestion of insisting that you do your research prior to taking Roaccutane. All this information is out there in literature, on the Internet and at your dermatologists office. You just need to ask and be inquisitive. If you are about to embark on digesting a tablet that your doctor is wary of you taking then surely it is sensible to read around the symptoms and heavily research something that will take over your life for approximately six months. It is not something to be taken lightly.
Is your GP listening?:
My GP has never been interested in my skin condition and this was made clear the day my blood tests came in. They didn’t even touch on why I had just received about ten blood test results. They simply said, “your results are fine but your testosterone is a little high, this may be a sign of PCOS Polysistic Ovaries but we’ll talk about that in the future if you ever want to have babies”. This was unpleasant, upsetting and incredibly unreassuring. After this brief encounter I was off without so much as a “good luck” or “see you the other side”, nope, nothing, niente, nada!
In the article, it is suggested that packets of Roaccutane have the side effects written on them. While this is a good idea there are far too many very important side effects that would need to be listed. How do you distinguish which are important enough to be listed? Surely this is what the inner leaflet is for. I also think it is unnecessary because by the time you have these tablets in your hand you should already know the possible consequences of taking these tablets.
There are many reasons for suicide and Roaccutane is unfortunately another reason why people may end their lives themselves. I believe that from personal experience, personal research and having watched “Dying for clear skin” on BBC3 that people are most likely to be lead to depression from acne itself rather than the drug. It is also stated that a patients state if depression lessens deeper into their treatment on Roaccutane, is this because their acne is getting better? I would like to know if patients that have no acne and have taken Roaccutane for chemotherapy, which is why it was first developed, have any link with suicide?
If this drug were to be banned which is what the two males parents suggest in the show and in the article then surely Roaccutane will be sold on the black market and at a higher cost than it is now. It is already a very expensive drug to purchase for those of us who unfortunately can not get it on the NHS. Furthermore I would hate to see people take advantage of those that would be desperately seeking the drug as a cure. It would be likely that replicas would be produced and made with goodness knows what in it and when taken could lead to countless problems and even death not only suicide!