A Few Good Women

Widely banned acne pill still available in Australia

This story once again highlights the importance of being aware that prescription drugs all carry risks and side-effects and just how crucial it is that information is shared.  It also raises the question of why a drug that has been banned in other countries is still available in Australia. The anti-acne pill Dianette, also known as Diane-35,  has been linked to the deaths of seven British women.  The pill is banned in several European countries as well as Canada and Japan as it has been linked to a seven-fold increase in the risk of developing blood clots but in Australia it is still 'under review' and therefore, presumably, still being prescribed by some doctors. Dianette (Diane-35) is a combined oral contraceptive that, because of it's role as a hormonal agent, can be effective in controlling acne.  DVT has long been associated with the contraceptive pill but, in the case of Dianette being prescribed as an anti-acne pill the link would not be assumed. Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 10.42.27 AMCharlotte Porter (pictured on the right with her friend Nichole) died in 2010, aged just 16, having taken Dianette for eight months and experiencing  extreme leg pain during that time.  She had a blood clot in her lungs caused by deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  The drug has also been linked to other serious side effects such as depression. Her mother now feels sick with guilt that she gave this pill to her daughter without realising how dangerous it could be. We all know how debilitating acne can be and how profoundly it can effect a teenager's life.  It is however crucial that we always question the efficacy, necessity and safety of all prescribed drugs.  Some things may be quite safe for one person but not another or there may be alternative remedies to try before resorting to prescription medicines. France recently suspended the use of Dianette, despite it being a widely prescribed contraceptive, because it was blamed for four deaths and another 125 women have suffered possible life-threatening side effects.   It is not licensed as a contraceptive in the UK but is permitted to be prescribed for skin conditions and hormonal imbalances.  However, one would certainly question why any medical practitioner who was aware of their inability to prescribe a drug for one purpose would even consider prescribing it for another. Charlotte's mother, Beverly, is now campaigning to have the drug banned in the UK.  She has done a lot of research on Dianette since her daughter's death and says that it is clear that far too many people have died as a result of taking it unaware of the risks.   She said "The fact that this information is not widely shared, with the exception of on specialist internet forums, is criminal to me.  I don't want any other child to die because of an acne treatment what alternative remedies are available." And that's the importance of communities like AFGW; we are determined to provide a platform for just this sort of information to be shared. See also our article in Health & Wellbeing on 'Alternative Treatments for Acne'.  

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