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Accutane is a Vitamin A derivative taken orally as a treatment for nodular and cystic acne that is resistant to less intense acne medications. The treatment, which usually lasts several months, reduces the sebaceous glands, thus decreasing the production of sebum, an oily substance that prevents skin from becoming dry.

Side Effects

Accutane causes a number of side effects, which, in most cases, depend on the dosage. Because a larger dosage of Accutane increases the chances of positive results, many people experience side effects. A less common but serious side effect is depression. In some cases, Accutane has been attributed to severe mental depression and even suicide.

Risk of Birth Defects

The most serious side effect is the risk of birth defects. The Food and Drug Administration has taken several steps to inform the public of the potentially deadly birth defects associated with the drug. A 2005 FDA alert detailed a strengthened risk-management plan to help prevent women from taking Accutane during pregnancy.

The FDA also has issued a warning against purchasing Accutane over the Internet. Because of the potential for side effects such as depression and serious birth defects, purchasing the drug without the involvement of a health care professional could be hazardous.