Isotretinoin: Treatment for severe acne
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* This section is provided free of charge to you from the American Academy of Dermatology's library. We do not treat all conditions listed here, nor do we perform all treatments discussed in this section. This is purely meant to be a reliable resource for patients with an interest in, or questions about, a wide array of dermatologic topics.
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Brand names: Absorica®, Accutane®, Amnesteem®, Claravis®, Myorisan®, Sotret®, and Zenatane™
Isotretinoin (eye-soh-tret-in-OH-in) is a prescription medicine for severe acne. This type of acne causes deep, painful cysts and nodules. These can be the size of a pencil eraser — or larger. As this acne clears, scars often appear.
Severe acne can be difficult to treat. When other treatments fail to clear the skin, isotretinoin may be an option. About 85% of patients see permanently clear skin after one course of treatment with isotretinoin.
Warning: You put your health at serious risk when you buy this medicine from an online site that does not require a prescription.
One course of treatment takes about 4 to 5 months. Sometimes, one course of treatment takes less time or a bit more time. Dermatologists tailor the treatment to each patient.
Due to possible side effects, your dermatologist can only prescribe this medicine if you:
- Enroll in iPLEDGE™, a program from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- See your dermatologist for follow-up visits.
- Sign forms that state you know the risks of taking isotretinoin.
Patients who can become pregnant must take a few extra precautions:
- Take required pregnancy tests before and while taking isotretinoin.
- Avoid getting pregnant.
Patient safety is a dermatologist’s first concern. If this medicine is an option for you, your dermatologist will talk with you about how to take this medicine safely and what you can expect. You and your dermatologist should jointly decide whether this medicine is right for you.
If isotretinoin is an appropriate treatment for you, you will be under close medical supervision while you take this medicine.