May 9, 2006
A popular birth control pill commonly prescribed to treat acne is under review by British health authorities who are concerned about other effects it might have.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is taking a closer look at the drug Dianette after reports that many of the young women who take it are plunged into severe depression.

Adverse Psychiatric Reactions Information Link, a non-profit group, has released letters from more than 100 women who say they suffered bouts of depression after being on the drug.

Some of them said they had been taking the drug for several years, although doctors usually prescribe it only for short periods.

Dianette's manufacturer's information leaflet says one possible side-effect of the drug is "mild depression."

There appear to be other concerns about the drug as well. Though it is an effective contraceptive, doctors have been warned against its long-term use because it has a higher risk of blood clots than alternatives.

One of the women complaining of depression wrote that her depression was practically gone within one week of going off the medication. Prior to that, she wrote, she had been deeply suicidal and barely able to function.

An MHRA spokeswoman also said the agency is concerned that doctors are apparently prescribing the drug as a contraceptive in spite of warnings that use could be dangerous.

A spokesman for the drug's manufacturer, Schering Health Care, said the company had not been formally informed of the MHRA review.