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Popular Acne Medications Put to the Test

WebMD Health News

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.

Well over 400 male and female patients took part in the study. After 12 weeks of treatment, the group met with success rates ranging from 75 to 100% clearing of facial acne.

Tanghetti cautions that patience is required with any acne treatment. "A retinoid takes about eight weeks to work, and some people have a slight flare during early treatment."

Another study presented at the dermatology meeting investigated the effectiveness of the commonly prescribed retinoid-like cream Differin. In this study of more than 350 patients with mild to moderate acne, researchers found that Differin was "significantly superior" to a comparison product in reducing both noninflammatory and inflammatory pimples, as well as the total number of lesions.

In addition, Differin was well-tolerated over the course of the 12-week period.

These studies and many others are showing that acne is treatable. If you've unsuccessfully tried all the over-the-counter medications, it might be time to visit a dermatologist. These skin specialists can treat acne using many different medications and help you find one, or a combination, that will work best for you.

"Diseases that disfigure are a severe problem, and acne can be a very big issue for some people," Tanghetti says.


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