Drug review welcomed by parents of tragic teenager

The Oxford Times: Jack Bowlby's parents, Michael and Amanda Jack Bowlby's parents, Michael and Amanda

THE parents of a 16-year-old boy who took his own life after taking medication for his acne have said every day without him is still difficult.

But Michael and Amanda Bowlby, from Kingston Lisle, near Wantage, have welcomed the news the Government’s scientific advisory group will now review the safety of the drug isotretinoin.

Jack Bowlby was found hanged in his room at Cheltenham College in October 2012 after taking the drug for seven months, despite complaining to a nurse that he started experiencing “very dark thoughts”, including suicide.

Mr Bowlby, 50, said: “We lost our son Jack, who was an absolutely fantastic boy, totally normal in every respect, cheerful and happy-go-lucky.

“Months after taking this drug, his whole life went into a downward spiral, and we firmly believe it was caused by this drug.

“We miss our son every day. Life is very difficult.

“The best we can hope for is distraction, but the minute you stop and have time to think it hits you like a sledge hammer.”

Mr and Mrs Bowlby have found other parents who believe their children took their own lives after taking the drug. They campaigned for the Government to review the evidence on isotretinoin, and met MPs, including Wantage MP Ed Vaizey, and health ministers in February.

This week, the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) announced it will review data on adverse reactions to isotretinoin.

Mr Bowlby said: “It is absolutely vital that this is done as soon as possible.

“The way we see it, the evidence so far has been put forward solely by the drug companies, and they are obviously going to promote their own drugs.

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“There isn’t the correct procedure in place to ascertain exactly why it causes these drastic reactions in people from 15 to 32.”

He also said he would like a public record created of the number of people who have taken their own lives after taking isotretinoin.

Mr Bowlby added: “If you go to an adolescent with acne and say you have a miracle drug which will allow them to go out on Saturday night without acne, they’re going to say yes.”

The CHM will convene a group of experts in clinical pharmacology, dermatology, psychiatry and a representative from the British Association of Dermatologists as early as May or June.

Mr Vaizey said: “This is a big step in the right direction, and I would like to pay tribute to the Bowlbys and all of the other families who continue to work hard on this important issue.”

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