Recent meta-analysis takes a look at possible adverse effects of the acne medicine, their frequency, and severity.
First sythnesized in 1955, isotretinoin remains acne treatment mainstay.1 A recent literature review and assessment looked at data on adverse effects (AEs) from the medication in research from 1981-2021. “Isotretinoin therapy affects almost all of the systems in the human body, causing numerous adverse events. However, they mainly concern mild mucocutaneous conditions (severe cases are rare) and represent individual responses to a drug,” wrote study authors Kapala et al.1
However, pregnancy remains a contraindication. While this review did not delve into isotretinoin use in pregnancy beyond a general statement that contraception should be used, teratogenicity dominates the conversation on risk. Unlike most of the AEs documented by Kapala et al, documented birth defects associated with isotretinoin use can be severe and the drug remains contraindicated in pregnant patients.2
The authors established 86 classifications of AEs. “Isotretinoin adverse events were mainly mucocutaneous conditions or conditions related to them such as dry skin, skin fragility, dermatitis, erythemal changes, xerosis, rashes, dry lips, dry and sore mouth, excessive thirst, cheilitis, and dry nose. Fortunately, they are all reversible and not severe,” wrote Kapala et al.1 Of the most common AEs, the authors summarized their frequency. Here are the three most common AEs in each group:
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Originally published on our sister brand, Dermatology Times.