Acne Treatments Compared

It is not uncommon to treat acne with antibiotics or certain types of contraceptives. However, there have been limited studies comparing whether there are differences in treatment. Here we consider a recently published study with intriguing results.

The study, which was published in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, was a meta-analysis of studies that considered the efficacy of either antibiotics or contraceptives in the treatment of mild to moderate acne. In total 226 publications were considered, of which 32 were randomised control trials. The main findings suggested that although both treatments helped in reducing acne, the effect of the antibiotics was more rapid. Specifically, the patients who had used antibiotics had a larger reduction of acne after three months than patients who had used contraceptives. However, after six months the effects were the same for both treatments. Based on this, the researchers concluded that prescribing contraceptives for treatments may be preferential for long term management of acne. You can read more about this study here.

The study is an interesting read, and it points to an emerging line of research that has received surprisingly little attention. The implications of the conclusion are certainly in line with our times given that antibiotic resistance is one of the most quoted medical topics in mainstream media. Naturally, it is worth considering to what extent antibiotics should be prescribed as primary treatment if there are alternatives that may yield the same results. However, we do not know whether this is the case based on one meta-analysis.

The authors themselves have also noted the heterogeneity of data, which is likely to reflect (amongst other things) the heterogeneity of symptoms that patients present with. Ultimately, each person’s symptoms need to be considered in light of the context they are presented in, including a consideration of demographic data, co-morbidities, and side effects. Therefore, until there are more robust policies developed in relation to this, it is best to take the approach of discussing rather than dictating treatment options when seeking medical advice.

If you are suffering from acne and you are currently receiving treatment then it is not recommended that you change your course of therapy without speak to your doctor. If you are unable to see your doctor then there are websites where you can get free and impartial advice, such as Private Doctor Direct. You can also use a website called NetDoctor where there are medics on hand to answer questions that you post on their public forum.