By Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say giving birth control information to women visiting dermatology clinics can help promote the safe use of the drug isotretinoin, an acne medication known to cause birth defects.
Isotretinion was originally sold under the brand name Accutane. That particular brand has been discontinued, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the drug is still available under other brand names, including Absorica, Amnesteem, Claravis, Myorisan, Sotret and Zanatane.
The FDA requires women of childbearing age to sign a pledge that they will use two forms of contraception when taking isotretinoin because the medication is known to cause birth defects.
The study included 100 female patients from one dermatology clinic. Their average age was about 27, and nearly two-thirds had a college education. Their knowledge about eight methods of birth control was assessed before and after they read an information sheet about contraception.
Before seeing the information sheet, the women correctly judged the effectiveness of about half of the birth control methods. After reading the information sheet for about half a minute, the study found that the women's ability to identify the effectiveness of the birth control methods increased by as much as 33 percent, depending on the form of birth control.
Some of the biggest increases in knowledge were for contraceptive implants, intrauterine devices (IUDs), the contraceptive patch, oral birth control pills and even condoms, the researchers found.
"A contraceptive information sheet can significantly improve patients' contraceptive knowledge and may be a useful addition to efforts to prevent isotretinoin-induced birth defects," Dr. Carly Werner, from the University of Pittsburgh, and her co-authors concluded.
Another expert agreed.
"Despite rigorous measures for documentation of birth control measures, we know that isotretinoin pregnancies continue to occur," said Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The unfortunate side effect is that many who would do very well from taking this medication don't get access to it because many doctors are not willing or able to go through all the paperwork and requirements required."
Day added that "the concern is that unless we can reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, there is risk that this drug may eventually be taken off the market entirely. And that would be a tragic loss for many who suffer from severe acne and are left permanently scarred and disfigured," Day added.
The study was published online Feb. 4 in the journal JAMA Dermatology.
The study findings show that "even a small investment in time on the part of physicians and patients can greatly enhance the understanding of contraception options," Dr. Marie Leger, of New York University, wrote in an accompanying commentary.
"Closing this practice gap could both prevent pregnancies in patients receiving isotretinoin and help ensure that dermatologists do not inadvertently undertreat acne in women," she added.