New guidelines have been put in place for a commonly prescribed acne drug to protect vulnerable teens.

University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr James Scott has developed new guidelines for the safe prescription of a common acne drug linked with suicide and depression among teenagers.

Dr James Scott says the guidelines would reduce variations in how clinicians used the drug Roaccutane, which contains active ingredient isotretinoin, to treat acne in teenagers.

“These guidelines draw on the expertise of a range of specialists and set out standard recommendations, particularly in relation to pre-treatment screening and post-treatment monitoring of patients,” Dr Scott says.

“Acne can damage adolescents’ psychological well-being, burdening them with feelings of embarrassment, frustration and anger.

“This medication is being prescribed to a population of adolescents who are already at an increased risk of depression because of their acne.”

Dr Scott says the recommendations would guide clinicians on the safe prescription and monitoring of the drug.

“If a young person’s acne is severely impacting their quality of life, a treatment like Roaccutane should be considered, regardless of the severity of their condition.

“However, anyone who is considered for treatment of Roaccutane should have careful monitoring during treatment and after medication has ceased,” Dr Scott says.

Researchers also recommend prior to starting the medication that adolescents should be screened for existing mental health problems. Dr Scott says communication and awareness of risks by all involved are the key to preventing tragic outcomes.

Patty Lee, owner of Skin Clinic Brisbane says acne is 10 per cent hereditary and 90 per cent how a person looks after their body.

“It is a really internal problem, it can be caused by liver function, incorrect use of products… or hormones,” she says.

Lee says she has had so many teenagers with acne come into the clinic who literally couldn’t look at her at first.

“They would look down, hang their head, twiddle their thumbs and definitely lack the confidence to have a conversation with me.

“When they start to see improvement it’s a big change, they start to joke and chat with you and are generally more confident,” Lee says.

Lee says Roaccutane is currently banned in the US and in Europe because of how traumatic the effects can be for people.

“Not only does it dry out the skin but also the body’s inside organs,” she says. Lee says there are ways to treat acne avoiding the drug, by addressing the internal factors to the acne problem first.