Many people have heard of isotretinoin, more commonly referred to as "Accutane," and some people are afraid of it because it has received bad press coverage in the past. However, when used safely and monitored closely by a dermatologist, it is an extremely effective treatment for acne. Most people who complete a course of isotretinoin will develop clear skin that lasts a lifetime. There is a lot of information (and misinformation) on the internet about this medication, and we encourage you to talk to your Houston acne dermatologists if you are interested in pursuing it. Be careful what you will read on the internet -- there are millions of patients who are thrilled with their skin because of isotretinoin therapy.
Isotretinoin has been approved for acne treatment since 1982. It was first marketed by Hoffman-LaRoche as Accutane®, and that is still the name by which it is commonly known. It is used to treat severe, cystic, or disfiguring nodular acne. However, many patients don't know that it is also used to treat recalcitrant difficult to control acne, or acne that isn't really responding to other therapies. It is a good alternative to long-term oral antibiotic therapy. It is an oral medication with potential adverse effects, and for this reason, it requires monitoring and counseling while on the medication. Isotretinoin may occasionally be used to treat other skin conditions such as gram-negative folliculitis, hidradenitis suppurtiva, rosacea, and lamellar ichthyosis.
The brand Accutane® has actually been discontinued in the United States, primarily due to business and financial reasons. It is still available as Roaccutane® in other countries. In the USA, isotretinoin is available as several other brands, including Asorica®, Claravis®, Sotret®, Amnesteem®, Myorisan®, and Zenatane®.
Isotretinoin causes birth defects in humans, and as such, it must not be used during pregnancy. The medicine is only available under a registered regulated distribution program known as the iPLEDGE™ program. Women of child-bearing potential must be familiar with the pregnancy warnings and requirements of this program before being prescribed isotretinoin. Your dermatologist will review these requirements with you and counsel you on whether isotretinoin is appropriate for you.
A typical course of isotretinoin lasts 5-6 months. During that time you will be asked to return monthly for an office visit and lab work to monitor your blood counts, lipids, and liver function tests. In addition, women of child-bearing potential will be required to prevent pregnancy in 2 different ways and to have a monthly pregnancy test.
If you would like to discuss whether isotretinoin is appropriate for you, call us to make an appointment today.