A schoolgirl posted that ‘life is not worth living’ on Snapchat before taking her own life after being prescribed an anti-acne wonder drug, an inquest heard today.
Annabel Wright, 15, had no medical history of depression when she was found dead in her bedroom at her home in Ripon, Yorkshire on May 1, 2019.
Just 20 minutes earlier she had been speaking with her father – who said he noticed nothing unusual about his daughter’s behaviour, and when police cracked her iCloud password four months after her death, they found no signs her suicide was planned.
The family’s barrister Rory Badenoch told the second day of the inquest: ‘She was a well balanced, happy girl and her suicide came out of the blue.
‘There is no doubt the drug caused an idiosyncratic reaction in her.’
Medics insisted they had no choice but to prescribe Annabel the more potent Roaccutane anti-acne medicine because she had not responded to a year-long course of antibiotics.
Distraught mother Helen Wright, 50, broke down while listening to the evidence of the consultant who started Annabel on the medication.
While Prof Alison Layton was being cross examined by the family’s lawyer, Mrs Wright was asked: ‘Are you all right?’
The mother snapped back; ‘Not really. No.’ She then rose from her seat next to businessman and jeweller husband Simon and stared at the Coroner Jonathan Leach.
‘I can’t listen to any more of these lies,’ she declared, and left the courtroom, followed by her husband.
After a five minute break, Mrs Wright returned to her seat, clutching a glass of water, and said: ‘Sorry’.
Annabel Wright, 15, was found dead in her bedroom at her home in Ripon, Yorkshire, 20 minutes after speaking with her father. She has been taking the anti-acne medication Roaccutane
WHAT IS ROACCUTANE AND WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SIDE-EFFECTS?
Roaccutane, or Isotretinoin, belongs to a group of medicines known as retinoids, which are substances related to vitamin A.
It is used to treat acne which is severe, or which has not got better with other treatments such as oral antibiotics or skin treatments.
The drug works by reducing the production of your skin’s natural oil. It is also thought to reduce inflammation. Isotretinoin capsules will be prescribed for you by a specialist skin doctor.
In general, many side effects associated with isotretinoin are similar to those associated with very high doses of vitamin A.
Gastrointestinal side effects have included inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, bleeding and inflammation of the gums, colitis, esophagitis/esophageal ulceration, ileitis, nausea, and other nonspecific gastrointestinal symptoms.
Reported common side effects include:
- burning, redness, itching, or other signs of eye inflammation
- bone or joint pain
- difficulty moving
- scaling, redness, burning, pain, or other signs of inflammation of the lips
- skin infection or rash
Reported rare side effects include:
- Abdominal or stomach pain (severe)
- attempts at suicide or thoughts of suicide (usually stops after medicine is stopped)
- back pain
- bleeding or inflammation of the gums
- blurred vision or other changes in vision
- changes in behavior
Sources: Drugs.com and Patient
She then sat with her head in her hands, blowing her nose on a tissue, and refusing to look at the video screen where Prof Layton was giving her version of events.
Later father Simon, 56, also walked out the hearing as his daughter’s final moments were described to the court.
Mrs Wright remained in her seat wiping tears from her eyes as she heard how police officers responding to the 999 call at 10pm were met by Annabel’s brother Will standing in the driveway.
The lad, then aged just 12, had been trying to help his father revive his big sister.
He told the astonished officers ‘Please save my sister’ before they ran into the house and up the stair’s to teen’s bedroom.
An air ambulance also landed and the doctor had the teen taken by road ambulance to Harrogate Hospital where attempts to revive her continued until she was pronounced dead at 11.24pm.
Detectives later went to Annabel’s school and spoke to four of her closest friends, who revealed her posts in a secret Snapchat group.
‘She said she felt in a low mood and life was not worth living,’ the police report concluded after studying the screen shots.
When officers closed the case, Helen Wright gave them a letter to the coroner, blaming the drug for driving her daughter to suicide.
But no mental health warning signs were detected by Prof Layton – who insisted over and over again that Annabel needed the drug because her spots were out of control.
She might have stopped the treatment had she been informed that Annabel had cut herself with a razor at the end of January 2019.
But she insisted Annabel, then 14, disliked the way she looked, that her skin was sore and painful, and her mother had pleaded with the hospital to do something about it.
The pretty teenager had scarring and acne on her cheeks when she examined her under a lamp – and the professor feared the scars would never go away, an inquest heard.
Annabel had not started the isotretinoin (Roaccutane) capsules, one of the options suggested on her initial consultation, so she prescribed the teenager on a ‘low dose’ of 20mg a day.
She defended the decision to increase it to 30mg, saying: ‘I think it was a very sensible thing to do.’ She also agreed when Annabel and her GP wanted to increase it to 40mg.
Annabel (pictured with her mother) was on the anti-acne drug, which she started taking at 14 in the form of Isotretinoin capsules, for nine months before tragedy struck. She has previously been on antibiotics to treat her acne
She added: ‘The questionnaires told me Annabel was quite concerned about her appearance, that she did not like how she looked, and wanted to look better.
‘It proved to us that the acne was one of the contributing factors. She was saying her skin was sore and painful. We had no concerns about her mental health.’
Cross-examining the Dermatology Consultant, Mr Badenoch said: ‘The issue the family have with this is that the family do not accept she had scarring.
‘No one single clinical note records any scarring whatsoever from the clinicians who examined her skin.’
Prof Layton replied: ‘That’s correct.’
The two day inquest in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, has heard just hours after the May 1 appointment Annabel was found hanged at her home in Ripon, North Yorkshire.
There was no suicide note. Toxicology tests for drugs and alcohol proved negative.
After Thursday’s hearing, Mrs Wright read a statement outside the courthouse, saying: ‘Over the course of the last two days we have heard of dermatologists treating patients with a drug which is licensed for use in the most severe cases of acne despite known risks of suicide.’
She added that she believed ‘this course of action has undoubtedly led to the death of our beloved daughter.’
The hearing continues.
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