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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Oct;49(4):662-6.

Are there racial and sex differences in the use of oral isotretinoin for acne management in the United States?

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Bristol-Myers Squibb Center for Dermatology Research, Wiston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.



Treatment of various diseases has been noted to vary by patient demographics. There is reason to suspect that there may be sex and racial differences in the treatment of severe acne.


We sought to determine if treatment of severe acne with oral isotretinoin varied with patient sex, race, or both.


We analyzed the demographics of patients with acne and patients using oral isotretinoin, minocycline, and tetracycline recorded in the 1990 to 1997 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.


There were 35 million visits to physicians for the treatment of acne between 1990 and 1997, and isotretinoin was prescribed at 5.8 million (17%) of these visits. Per capita visit rates for acne among whites was 2.3 times that of blacks, and whites were 1.8 times more likely to receive isotretinoin at acne visits. Per capita, women had 1.4 times as many visits for acne as men, but men were 1.7 times more likely than women to receive isotretinoin at an acne visit. Dermatologists managed 83% of all isotretinoin visits. Dermatologists accounted for 100% of isotretinoin visits for which pregnancy prevention education and counseling was reported.


Patients who are black receive less oral isotretinoin than those who are white, and the expense of isotretinoin appears to be one factor in this difference. Women are less likely than men to receive isotretinoin at acne visits. Expense does not appear to be a factor in this difference. Dermatologists have more experience than nondermatologists managing acne, prescribing isotretinoin, and counseling women treated with isotretinoin concerning pregnancy prevention. Pregnancy prevention is an essential component of isotretinoin use in women that must not be ignored.

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