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The Sydney Morning Herald
October 28, 2004 – 5:22PM
Delivering her findings today, NSW deputy state coroner Dorelle Pinch said the acne treatment Roaccutane, and the anti-depressant Zoloft, may have aggravated Vivian’s depression which caused her to commit suicide.
Ms Pinch said Roaccutane, which has been prescribed to about 250,000 Australians, had well-known side-effects. “Depression has been listed as an adverse effect of the drug label since its release internationally in 1982,” she told Glebe Coroner’s Court.
“(It may) cause depression, psychosis and, rarely, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide.” Ms Pinch said Zoloft may also have worsened the teenager’s depression. “I cannot discount the possibility that Zoloft may have aggravated her depression,” Ms Pinch said. “Zoloft is not now, nor has it ever been, indicated for children or adolescents.” Outside the court, Vivian’s mother pleaded with parents to rethink the use of Roaccutane.
“I would urge parents to consider very, very carefully whether they want to risk their child’s life by using it,” Mrs Crane said.
Vivian became moody when she first took the drug in 1998 at the age of 12, but returned to normal after the treatment stopped, the court heard.
When her acne flared again a year later, the Roseville College student resumed treatment and her friends and family watched the teenager’s cheerful personality darken.
“She was a bubbly, full of life, full of fun girl and she became a shutdown, hollowed-out shell of a person with no personality,” Mrs Crane said outside the court.
Vivian was taken off the drug when her parents reported symptoms of depression to her dermatologist in February 2000 and she was prescribed the anti-depressant Zoloft three months later.
Twelve days before her death, Mrs Crane took Vivian to Hornsby hospital after she emailed six friends saying she had been cutting herself and that she planned to end her life.
Ms Pinch also criticised the hospital after it told the Cranes there were no available beds and failed to contact Vivian’s psychiatrist or check on her progress.
The deputy state coroner told Vivian’s parents they had done all they could to save their daughter’s life.
“I don’t pretend to understand what agony and soul searching you have been though,” she said.
“There is something I want you to keep in the forefront of your mind, not myself and not anybody else in this court room is of any doubt that you did your best.”
Ms Pinch recommended that dermatologists who prescribe Roaccutane should monitor their patients specifically for depressive symptoms.
She also recommended that doctors advise families or carers of the side-effects of anti-depressants in children and adolescents.
However, pharmaceutical company Roche, which manufactures Roaccutane, said there was no scientific evidence linking the drug and suicidal behaviour.
“The body of scientific evidence available has not established a link between Roaccutane and depression or suicide,” Roche said in a statement.