By Rick Sallinger

LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – A powerful drug to treat acne may be used as a defense in a case involving the murder of a Longmont woman.

Makayla Grote (credit: YouTube)

Makayla Grote, 20, was stabbed to death. A 15-year-old boy who was on Accutane is charged as an adult in the killing.

The drug has been the subject of controversy in the past because of potentially serious side effects.

One Colorado woman blames the death of her brother on the drug.

(credit: Nicole Haskett)

Nicole Haskett speaks with great affection and regret about her brother Zach Kauffman.

Plagued by a severe acne problem, he began taking Accutane in 2002. She saw a drastic change in his behavior.

Nicole Haskett

“From a sweet to an angry soul,” she told CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger.

Haskett said he started stealing and spending like crazy. When he stopped taking the drug she noticed his behavior improved, but a few years later his acne problem got worse. So he went back on Accutane. What happened?

(credit: CBS)

“Psychosis, stealing, suicidal thoughts,” Haskett said.

That type of impact is playing out in a Boulder courtroom.

Aiden von Grabow was taking Accutane, and that may be part of his trial in the stabbing death of Grote.

Before the killing, von Grabow wrote “my medications are messing with my brain,” on Snapchat.

Aiden von Grabow (credit: CBS)

Can that prompt a not guilty verdict? Such a defense has met with mixed results in the courts.

Dr. Robert Valek of the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy was asked by CBS4, “Can Accutane cause someone to murder?”

“According to the evidence, there is no evidence that it causes that,” he answered.

The Accutane name is now discontinued in the U.S., but its generic form comes with various warnings including the possibilities of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Roche Pharmaceuticals, which in the past made Accutane wrote to CBS4:

Based on many years of scientific research, no cause-and-effect relationship between Accutane and psychiatric events or aggressive behaviors has been established.

But Haskett feels certain it was Accutane that led her brother to his death at age 34.

“Please reach out to someone if you have suicidal thoughts. We didn’t know that with him, so if he would have just reached out maybe he would still be here,” she cried.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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