New York: Prescription pills used to treat severe acne were linked to a two-fold risk of developing eye problems, such as pink eye, styes and dryness, in a large new study from Israel.Isotretinoin, which goes by brand names including Roaccutane, Claravis and Amnesteem, is known to have serious side effects, such as bone growth delays in teenagers and miscarriages and birth defects when taken by pregnant women.The medications are quite popular, however, for treating severe cases of acne in both teens and adults.According to Roche, the maker of Roaccutane, formerly known as Accutane, 16 million people worldwide have used that brand alone since 1982.Some eye problems are already more common in people with acne, but in the new study of nearly 15,000 Israeli adolescents and young adults, 14 percent of those taking isotretinoin were treated for eye conditions within a year of starting the drug.That compared to seven percent of an acne-free comparison group and 9.6 percent of subjects with acne who had never taken isotretinoin."I would give parents the advice to (have their children) see an ophthalmologist before they take it, and every three months for the first year they take it, because if we catch things early we can fix them and not leave you with permanent side effects," said Dr. Rick Fraunfelder, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University and an expert in eye problems related to medications.Although eye problems have been documented among people taking the drugs, Fraunfelder, who was not involved in the new study, said past research has not detailed how common the issues are.To get an idea of how often eye problems develop among patients on isotretinoin, researchers at the Tel Aviv Medical Center collected information on users and non-users from the records of a large managed-care organization.Gabriel Chodick, a researcher at Tel Aviv University and one of the study authors, said that each year about one percent of adolescents in the Maccabi Healthcare Services system start isotretinoin treatment to clear up their acne.
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