Note: The testimony presented here consists of witnesses' prepared statements and are not official transcripts of the proceedings.
Testimony of Amanda Callais
Before the Committee On Government Reform
2154 Rayburn, Washington, DC 20515
December 5, 2000
At some point in everyone's life they are faced with the decision to grow up. Most of the time it is not a conscious decision, it is just a natural part of life. Unfortunately, I didn't have a choice. At 14, I was forced to leave my childhood behind because of the monster-under-the- bed, Accutane.
The summer after my 8th grade year was rather boring, I talked on the phone with my friends and boyfriend, went to the movies, and planned for high school in the fall. I also worried a bit about my face because although I had been undergoing treatment for acne for several years, my face and back were still broken out, but lately the dermatologist had been talking about Accutane, so I knew that there was hope.
Before I knew it, school and high school was great I joined some new clubs; I made the volleyball team, and I was elected Freshman Class reporter. This year was definitely turning into one of the best years of my life. And then on September 17, the dermatologist prescribed Accutane for my face. We talked about the physical side effects and she warned me about pregnancy and then she sent me home with a pamphlet to read.
Of course my appearance got worse before it got better. My lips chapped and bled, and my skin dried out, but my dermatologist and I had discussed all of the physical side effects of Accutane, so I didn't care because it just proved that the Accutane was working.
My downfall started the moment I took the first pill. After two weeks, my happy mood began to slowly dissolve. I found myself feeling sad and I often cried for no reason. I began to slack off from my school work because I was just too tired to care about my grades. I frequently argued with my parents and friends. In fact, I often provoked arguments until I was in a screaming fit. In six short weeks everything about the best year of my life had become nonexistent. I just didn't care anymore and on November 14, 1997, I took 40 pills went to sleep expecting never to wake up. However, at 3:00 that morning I woke up and was sick. My parents found me and took me to the hospital and my stomach was pumped. I was then taken to an adolescent facility where I stayed for a week under the care of a psychiatrist and I began taking Prozac.
However, even the Prozac didn't help. No matter how hard I tried to feel better and be normal, and I did try very hard, I just sank deeper into depression. I began to restrict my food and lost over 15lbs. My grades dropped and I went from being a 4.0 student to making C's and D's. I wanted to sleep all of the time. I hated myself more and more each day and began to cut my hands with razor blades. Ironically, the only good thing in my life was my clearer skin because of the Accutane.
During that time, I watched a monster live in my body and control my actions. I wanted to feel better and be happy, but I couldn't no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much therapy or medication, I was miserable. I had no control over my life, the monster was in charge. Fortunately, that changed at the end of February when my mom heard about the warnings for Accutane. Do you remember that little drug? It was going to help make this year the best year of my life, right? I had been taking it all along, I had even taken it at the adolescent center with the psychiatrist's approval.
After that report, Mom took me off Accutane and within two weeks I began to feel normal again. I started eating and quit cutting myself. I began studying again and staying awake in my classes. By the end of March the Accutane was out of my system and I was working hard to catch up, but I was in control, no monster in sight. By April my psychiatrist released me from her care saying that I had made a full recovery. All of my doctors agreed that they had never seen a turn around like this and my depression must have been caused by the Accutane.
That year became a defining moment in my life when I was forced to grow up. I just find it saddening that I was never given the chance to choose, to hold on to my innocence and keep my childhood for a little bit longer. I have had to pay the price and face the consequences for a choice I didn't voluntarily make. I think the people who make Accutane should have to face the consequences for stolen innocence and lost lives because of the choices they make to hide the devastating effects of this drug. I know that Accutane causes depression, no matter what the so-called experts say. I have lived to tell the tale. There were two girls that year, me and me on Accutane.
Today I am grateful to just be alive. I am a senior in high school and plan to go to college next year.I was lucky, I survived Accutane, but so many others don't. You must do something about this drug because the monster-under-the-bed is supposed to be imaginary, not a pill you take to clear up your skin.
Committee on Government Reform
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 (202) 225-5074
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