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Mother warns of dangers posed by anti-acne drug

·4-min read

The mother of a teenage girl who took her own life after being prescribed a drug to treat her acne has warned other families of the dangers posed by Isotretinoin.

Helen Wright said her daughter Annabel had ended her life “without warning” and was taking a drug that has a small risk associated with depression and suicide.

Mrs Wright spoke out after a coroner recorded a conclusion of suicide over the death of her 15-year-old daughter.

Jonathan Leach, the assistant coroner for North Yorkshire, ruled out a direct link between Annabel’s death and Isotretinoin, which is also known as Roaccutane.

Annabel was found in her bedroom at her home near Ripon, North Yorkshire in May 2019 after being prescribed the drug six months previously.

Speaking outside the coroner’s court in Northallerton, Mrs Wright said: “The evidence provided during this inquest has shown that our normal, happy, well-adjusted child took her own life suddenly, without warning and without any mitigating circumstances other than she was taking a drug which can cause suicide.

“Despite this, the coroner has not seen fit to implicate this drug in her death. We are disappointed, but sadly not surprised by the verdict.

“She was let down in life and she has been let down in death by the authorities’ steadfast refusal to recognise the role Isotretinoin played in her death.

“But we, the family and friends and the people who knew her know the real truth, and this will not be changed by the opinions of those who never met her – yet had the power to stand in judgment over her.”

Mrs Wright, who was accompanied by her husband and Annabel’s father Simon, added: “In failing to make a prevention of future deaths report implicating the role Isotretinoin had in her death, the coroner has missed a valuable opportunity to try to prevent what happened to Annabel happening to another child, another family.

“We know we will never get justice for our child, but we tried our best to get recognition for the role Isotretinoin played in Annabel’s death in the face of wilful ignorance by those who refuse to listen, we could do no more.

“In view of this, we, as bereaved parents would like to take this opportunity to warn others of the dangers of Isotretinoin, because often they will not hear about the true side effects including sudden suicidal impulses from those who glibly prescribe it.

“We hope others will take heed from this tragedy and refuse to allow their children to take this toxic drug.”

The inquest heard Annabel had sent messages to friends on Snapchat saying she was in a low mood and “life is not worth living”.

After her death, police also found a picture she had drawn of Kermit the Frog hanging from a noose.

She had also “scratched” her wrists with a razor in January 2019, shortly after she had been heard laughing on the phone to her friends in her bedroom.

The inquest had heard conflicting evidence from two expert dermatologists, Professor Anthony Chu and Dr Sarah Wakelin, on whether the Isotretinoin had contributed to Annabel’s death.

Mr Leach said Prof Chu’s assertion that Annabel’s death was linked to taking the Isotretinoin “was clearly outside his level of expertise”.

Recording his findings, the coroner said: “There is no evidence the balance of Annabel’s mind was disturbed and the fact she took her own life does not in itself mean the balance of her mind was disturbed and, if it was, there is no evidence that this was caused or contributed to by Isotretinoin.

“The only evidence was from Annabel’s parents, who could not concede of any other reason why she would take her own life, and that of Prof Chu, and that part of his evidence was outside of his area of expertise.”

The inquest heard that Annabel saw her GP about her acne at the age of 12 and was later referred to Harrogate District Hospital when she was 14.

She was seen by two different dermatologists, Dr Ibtessam El-Mansori and Dr Alison Layton, before she was prescribed Isotretinoin.

Dr Layton said she explained “all adverse effects” of the treatment to patients and their parents, including the small risk associated with depression and suicide.

In his findings, Mr Leach said the decision to prescribe Isotretinoin was reasonable and the formal consent process was followed.

Dr Jacqueline Andrews, executive medical director at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We wish to offer our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Annabel Wright.

“Following Annabel’s tragic death, the trust commenced an investigation and our findings were shared with Annabel’s family and the coroner.

“We acknowledge the conclusion of the coroner.”

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