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Isotretinoin for Acne

Isotretinoin is an oral medication used to treat severe acne when other acne treatments have failed to bring acne under control. It is available by prescription only.

Despite concerns about side effects, isotretinoin remains an important treatment option for those with severe acne. It can clear up acne that resists all other forms of treatment, including oral antibiotics.

Isotretinoin is commonly known by the former brand name Accutane®, but Accutane® is no longer available. Other brand names of isotretinoin include Amnesteem®, Claravis® and Sotret®.

How is Isotretinoin Used?

A course of isotretinoin treatment typically lasts 15-20 weeks, though it may be prescribed for longer periods if lower doses are used.

Most people require only one course of isotretinoin treatment, though an additional course of treatment may be recommended in some cases. A person's acne may continue to improve for several weeks or months after stopping isotretinoin.

Precautions When Using Isotretinoin

Isotretinoin is prescribed in a very controlled manner to reduce the risk of developing side effects.

Isotretinoin must not be used by female patients who are or may become pregnant. There is an extremely high risk that severe birth defects will result if pregnancy occurs while taking this medication in any amount, even for short periods of time.

People using isotretinoin must agree to the strict terms of the iPLEDGE program before starting isotretinoin. Those participating in the iPledge program commit to the following:

Isotretinoin is dispensed in quantities to last only 30 days. A prescription refill is required for the next 30 days. A doctor must have assurances that ALL patients are following the iPledge program before approving the refill. This includes the requirement that all women have two (2) negative pregnancy tests before the approving the refill.

Learn more about iPledge at the iPledge Website or calling the toll-free number, 1-866-495-0654.

Taking Isotretinoin

Take Isotretinoin exactly as directed by your doctor. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Swallow the capsules whole with a full glass of liquid. Do not chew or suck on the capsules.

Your doctor will probably start you on an average dose of isotretinoin and increase or decrease your dose depending on how well you respond to the medication and the side effects you experience.

Side Effects of Isotretinoin

Isotretinoin may cause side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

Other more serious reported side effects include depression and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

There is not enough evidence to determine whether isotretinoin can cause depression and other mental health conditions. Studies have shown that severe acne is itself associated with depression and can impact a person's self esteem. Nonetheless it is important to remain cautious. If a person taking isotretinoin has any symptoms of depression or another mental health condition, the person must contact their doctor and stop taking isotretinoin right away.

Similarly,  if a person taking isotretinoin develops any of the following signs or symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the person must stop taking isotretinoin and contact their doctor.

Take isotretinoin exactly as directed by your doctor. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed.

Read the medication guide that you receive with the medication for a complete list of possible side effects.