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Home > Wellness > Health Library > Isotretinoin for Acne
Isotretinoin is a powerful and effective medicine derived
from vitamin A (retinoid medicine). Doctors prescribe it to treat severe
acne only after other treatments have failed.
Isotretinoin can cause some rare but serious side effects. Just one dose of
isotretinoin can cause severe birth defects if a woman is pregnant when taking
needs to be taken for 3 to 6 months.
Isotretinoin works by unclogging skin
pores and shrinking oil glands.
Doctors use isotretinoin to treat
Isotretinoin is very effective for controlling most types of acne and for clearing it up for long periods of time.2
Retinoid medicines may have side
effects, such as:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects.
(Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Isotretinoin is strictly regulated for use in women
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because of the danger of
miscarriage and of serious birth defects in babies whose mothers took the
medicine during pregnancy. Doctors may only prescribe these medicines for a
female who is not pregnant and who does not intend to become pregnant while
taking the medicine. You must also use two methods of birth control and have
pregnancy tests on a regular basis while using this medicine.
The FDA has announced that the companies that make
isotretinoin have a program to register doctors who prescribe isotretinoin and
the people who take it. The program is to ensure that women taking this drug
understand the risk of birth defects, take precautions to avoid pregnancy, and
know what to do if they become pregnant. If your doctor suggests that you take
isotretinoin, you must be registered with iPLEDGE in order to get the drug. You
can get more information and register at www.ipledgeprogram.com or by telephone
at 1-866-495-0654 (toll-free).
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Del Rosso JQ (2007). Acne vulgaris and rosacea. In DC
Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 2, chap.
12. New York: WebMD.
Habif TP (2010). Acne, rosacea, and related disorders. In Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy, 5th ed., pp. 217–263. Philadelphia: Mosby.
February 3, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
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