SEOUL, April 12 (Korea Bizwire) — A study conducted with 22,374 pregnant women as participants over a recent six-year period has found that 2.9 percent (650 women) had taken acne medication including isotretinoin before, during or after pregnancy.
Also called roaccutane in the South Korean market, isotretinoin is a pharmaceutical that treats severe acne problems, but carries serious risks for newborns. Of infants born to mothers who used isotretinoin during pregnancy, 35 percent develop a variety of congenital defects, ranging from facial to heart deformities, as well as a strong likelihood of being diagnosed with mental deficiencies.
The risks involved are not only limited to the child post-birth, as 20 percent of child-carrying mothers suffer miscarriages. In addition, around 50 percent of pregnant women who do take isotretinoin opt for an abortion.
Despite these dangers, isotretinoin is sold as thirty different branded products. In 2016, yearly sales revenue topped 9 billion won.
The period between the ages of 25 and 30 was when women most commonly used isotretinoin, though women as young as 18 and as old as 46 also used the drug. Use duration was an average of 18 days per individual, though some took the drug for over 10 years.
While it is advised that attempts to get pregnant be avoided until 30 days after isotretinoin is last taken, approximately 80 percent did not abide by this recommendation.
Of the 650 pregnant women who had taken isotretinoin, 16 percent had become pregnant within 30 days of the last date of use, and 62.9 percent had taken it while pregnant.
Illicit online distribution of isotretinoin is rampant, as prescriptions are given out too liberally. As a result, individuals whose physician would warn against using the pharmaceutical can easily get their hands on some off the web.
In need of better countermeasures against such reckless behaviors, voices have called for South Korea to adopt the iPLEDGE web program established in the U.S. The program permits a patient to purchase isotretinoin only from an approved pharmacy and requires the patient to regularly undergo pregnancy tests. Similar iterations of this system are found in nations in the European Union as well as in Australia.