Roche stops selling acne drug Accutane

A general view shows the headquarter of Swiss drugmaker Roche in Basel July 21, 2008. Roche Holding AG offered on Monday to acquire all outstanding shares in its U.S. partner Genentech Inc for $43.7 billion in cash to reinforce its position in cancer medicines. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG is no longer selling its acne drug Accutane as it has reached the end of its life cycle and is losing ground to generic alternatives, the company said on Friday.

Generics of the powerful medicine have been available since 2002 and now dominate the market, Roche said. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Mylan Inc said they will continue to sell generic versions.

“As always when you have generics around your market share drops,” Roche spokeswoman Martina Rupp said. “This was an economical decision driven by falling market share.” Accutane’s market share was between 4 and 5 percent.

Roche said the move was not done for safety or efficacy reasons and was unlikely to have any impact on earnings.

The last date for distribution in the United States was June 25. Accutane is now no longer available from Roche directly but patients may still be able to get it from pharmacies, she said.

Accutane, known generically as isotretinoin, has had a controversial history since it began sale in 1982. While powerful at clearing acne, the drug is linked to severe birth defects if taken during pregnancy, so physicians and patients must abide by a strict risk management program.

Accutane has also been suspected of other side effects, such as causing depression and suicidal thinking.

The Swiss drugmaker noted on Friday it has been faced with high costs from personal injury lawsuits that it continues to defend against vigorously.

Roche shares rose 1.7 percent.

Reporting by Katie Reid and Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by David Cowell and Richard Chang