American Academy of Dermatology Meeting

American Academy of Dermatology Meeting

March 13, 2019
1 min read

Acne drug may not cause depression

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Isotretinoin was not associated with an increased risk for depression in patients with acne, according to real-world data presented at American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting.

“There has been mixed evidence and much debate around the impact of isotretinoin on mood change,” Bethanee Schlosser, MD, PhD, associate professor in the department of dermatology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a press release. “There’s also a lot of misinformation out there, particularly on social media, so we hope this large-scale study can shed some light on the issue.”

Schlosser and colleagues conducted a retrospective, real-world study to determine the prevalence of depression in patients diagnosed with acne who were treated with isotretinoin compared with patients diagnosed with acne but not treated with isotretinoin.

The researchers reviewed data from the Northwestern Medicine Enterprise Data Warehouse and identified 38,016 adults aged 18 to 65 years who were diagnosed with acne between January 2001 and December 2017. Of those, 1,087 patients were exposed to isotretinoin (mean age, 27 years) and 36,929 were not (mean age, 32 years).

They collected data on sex, race, age at first medical encounter for acne, age at diagnosis for depression, and isotretinoin exposure.

Approximately 4% of patients who were exposed to isotretinoin were subsequently diagnosed with depression, compared with about 5% of patients who were not exposed to isotretinoin. Exposure to isotretinoin lasted a median of 5 months.

After adjusting for age, gender, race and diagnosis of cancer, the frequency of depression did not significantly differ between patients who were and were not exposed to isotretinoin.

“We know the mere presence of acne can be associated with mood disorders, including depression, and isotretinoin can provide significant relief for patients whose acne is not responding to other treatments and causing severe psychosocial distress,” Schlosser said. – by Alaina Tedesco



Soundararajan V, et al. Abstract 8292. Presented at: American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting; March 1-5, 2019; Washington, D.C.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.