Retinoid Gels May Help Keep Acne Away

Gels Might Be an Alternative to Oral Antibiotics for Clear Skin Maintenance

From the WebMD Archives

May 15, 2006 -- New acneacne research shows that prescription retinoid skin gels might help skin stay clear without oral antibiotics.

Retinoids are drugs derived from vitamin A. Prescription retinoid gels are applied to the skin. Oral antiacne drugs include other forms of retinoids, as well as antibiotics.

Once acne is under control, the goal is to keep skin clear. Exactly how to do that is the topic of two studies and an editorial in the Archives of Dermatology.

Some oral antiacne drugs (such as Accutane) can cause birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Long-term use of antibiotics may make bacteria more likely to learn to resist those drugs.

About the Studies

Both studies involved patients with acne vulgaris, a very common type of acne. The studies tested retinoid gels as maintenance therapy in acne patients.

One study used the gel Differin (adapalene). The other study used the gel Tazorac.

All of the patients in both studies had already reduced their acne considerably through prescription treatment that included an oral antibiotic. The researchers wanted to see if it was possible to maintain those benefits after patients were no longer taking oral antibiotics.

The Differin study was funded by Galderma, Differin's maker. The Tazorac study was funded by Allergan Inc., Tazorac's maker. In the journal, various researchers from both studies report connections with drug companies including Galderma and Allergan Inc.

Differin Study

The Differin study included 253 people who had had severe acne. Their acne had been at least halved while taking an oral antibiotic (doxycycline) and either Differin or a similar gel lacking any medicine (placebo) for 12 weeks.

Patients in the Differin study either used Differin or a placebo gel for 16 weeks, without taking oral drugs. Three-quarters the people in the Differin group maintained their clearer skin, compared with a little more than half of those using the placebo gel (54%).

"This study demonstrates a clinical benefit of continued treatment with adapalene gel, 0.1%, as a maintenance therapy for acne," write the researchers, who included Diane Thiboutot, MD, of Pennsylvania State University's medical school.