Popular Acne Medications Put to the Test

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 16, 2000 (Nashville) -- If you suffer from acne, you're not alone. In fact, statistics show that 85% of young people -- and many older adults too -- endure the pimples and plugged pores that characterize the distressing skin condition. Many medical treatments are on the market today to help heal acne and even reduce the scarring. But which treatments are best?

The question is crucial to most people with the condition. One young sufferer, who agreed to an interview on a first-name basis, summed up the devastation. "Acne has pretty much ruined my life," Ashley told WebMD. "Nothing is more important to me right now than finding a medication that works."

Finding what works is a constantly evolving and evermore successful process. And now, acne sufferers can take encouragement from the results of two studies presented here at a medical conference of the American Academy of Dermatology.

In the studies, researchers put a few popular prescription and over-the-counter medications to the test and found not only that some are more effective and safe than others, but also some appear to work best as part of a combined therapy.

In the first study, researchers led by Zoe Draelos, MD, of the department of dermatology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in High Point, N.C., found the most effective treatment for noninflamed pimples was a combination therapy of Tazorac plus Cleocin T. For inflammatory lesions, Tazorac plus benzoyl peroxide was best. Tazorac and Cleocin T are prescription medications, whereas some benzoyl peroxides are available over-the-counter.

"We found it's best to bring in different drugs that attack different problems," study co-author Emil A. Tanghetti, MD, tells WebMD. In this case, Tazorac, a retinoid (vitamin A derivative) that's applied to the skin, helps to remove damaged acne skin and stimulate healthy new skin, while the Cleocin T or benzoyl peroxide help fight infection in the skin.

"Combination therapy not only maximizes [effectiveness], it also minimizes the puss and the flare, especially in the early parts of the treatment," says Tanghetti, a dermatologist and a clinical professor at the University of California Davis in Sacramento.