Effective Acne Medication

A new type of acne medication is effective even when left on the skin for only a short time.

Tazarotene gel is a form of vitamin A acid known as a retinoid agent. Retinoids were first found effective in treating skin disorders in 1969, but many have had adverse effects, such as excessive skin drying and peeling. Tazarotene gel is the newest retinoid to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration and has typically been applied to the skin and then left overnight. Like other drugs of its class, it can also cause unwanted side effects.

Researchers from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine decided to see if short-term application of the gel could bring acne sufferers the benefits of the drug without causing so many side effects. They tested their theory on around 80 people with acne who ranged in age from 12 to 39.

About one-third of the group applied the gel twice a day. Another one-third applied the gel once a day and a sham gel once a day. The third group applied a sham gel twice a day. Participants were instructed to leave the gel on their skin for at least 30 seconds at a time but not to exceed five minutes. Participants timed the gel exposure based on their perception of the onset of side effects.

Results showed the gel, when applied once or twice a day, was effective in minimizing the effects of acne, while the shortened exposure reduced unwanted side effects. After 12 weeks, the treatment was deemed successful in 64 percent of those whose apply the gel twice a day and 61 percent of those who apply it once a day. Treatment success was seen in just 15 percent of those who applied the sham treatment.

SOURCE: Archives of Dermatology, 2002;138:481-489

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