Roche No Longer Selling Accutane Acne Drug

Roche Holding AG announced on Friday that it is no longer selling its acne drug Accutane amid slowing sales due to the move towards generic alternatives.

“As always when you have generics around your market share drops,” Roche spokeswoman Martina Rupp told Reuters.

“This was an economical decision driven by falling market share,” she said.

Indeed, Accutane’s market share had declined to around 4 to 5 percent. Generics of the potent drug have been available since 2002 and now dominate the market, the Swiss company said.

Roche said the move would not likely affect the company’s earnings. 

June 25 was the final date for U.S. distribution of Accutane, Rupp said.  Although the drug is no longer available directly from Roche, patients may still be able to obtain it from pharmacies.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Mylan Inc. said they would continue to sell generic versions of the drug.

Accutane, known generically as isotretinoin, has a checkered history since it first hit the market in 1982.  Although the drug is a powerful acne treatment, it has also been linked to severe birth defects if taken during pregnancy, and has also been suspected of other side effects such as depression and suicidal thoughts.  As a result, doctors and patients must adhere to a stringent risk management program.  

Roche noted on Friday that it has faced high costs from personal injury lawsuits, some of which it is still fiercely fighting.  However, the company said their decision to discontinue selling Accutane was not driven by safety or efficacy reasons.

Roche shares were up $2.50, or 1.73 percent, in late afternoon trading on Friday.

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