7 Pros & Cons of using Accutane to Treat Severe Acne

According to Mount Sinai Hospital's Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology, Joshua Zeichner, the 80s were a time when there was fewer intensive regulations for treatments and techniques.

Isotretinoin, or Accutane as it was often referred to because it was the most popular brand name for the substance, was at one point the go-to dermatological solution when the gentler Salicylic Acid didn't work effectively enough. As good as it was though, it came with its fair share of health warnings.

However, as reports of suicide and depression became widespread and various lawyers in the media rounding up patients to take their dermatologists to court because they gave them the drug, Roaccutane had started to earn a bad reputation, occasionally unfairly.

In the last 30 years, there's been a tightening up with regards to regulatory policies and although Isotretinoin is considered a drug that needs to be monitored closely, it is still considered an effective treatment for acne. If this is all confusing, we're not surprised. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of the drug.


1) It is what is known as an internal retinoid. This is a derivative of Vitamin A and is the only current medication that tackles the four main factors that cause acne. It improves internal pore cell turnover, calms inflammation, reduces the P. acnes bacteria that occurs naturally in the skin and decreases the production of skin oil.
2) In most cases, when the acne is eradicated, it either stays away or comes back less severe
3) The medication is the best way to treat particularly bad cystic acne, particularly when nothing else has worked so far.

One of the cons of accutane treatment is the need to stay out of sunlight for months afterwards

4) It has been known to cause irritation and dryness
5) Birth defects are a possibility. This is why, if a patient wants to start taking Isotretinoin, they have to sign up to the iPledge program run by the FDA, which means female patients have to use two different types of effective birth control for at least a month before they begin taking the drug and for a month after their prescription ends.

6) Although there's been reports about the connection between using Isotretinoin and conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, anxiety and depression, the American Academy of Dermatology has stated their official opinion of the treatment.

7) Your skin may be sensitive to sunlight and and UV rays for up to six months during and after treatment of roaccutane. Be mindful of this and wear the strongest factor protection, as well as limiting time in the sun.

When looking at the current evidence available, Isotretinoin is definitely still considered to be an effective and safe enough medication to use, as long as patients are fully aware of the potential risks.

Especially when all milder treatments like benzo peroxide cream, antibiotics and saclicyclic acid have all failed to treat severe forms of acne.

Taking roaccutane must be done under medical supervision if you want to minimise the risks involved. In fact, we’d recommend that this is a non-negotiable part of taking this strong medication in order to have the most positive effect and curb the negatives.
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