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J Drugs Dermatol. 2011 Jun;10(6):636-44.

Evidence-based review: fixed-combination therapy and topical retinoids in the treatment of acne.

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Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA.


Topical fixed-combination products and topical retinoid monotherapy are established first-line treatments for mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris, yet adequate comparative data are lacking. The following evidence-based review addresses the question: "In patients with mild-to-moderate acne, are topical fixed-combination products or topical retinoids a more efficacious choice in reducing noninflammatory, inflammatory and total lesions after 12 weeks of treatment?" To identify relevant studies, a PubMed search was performed using "acne" and search terms for adapalene, tretinoin, tazarotene, benzoyl peroxide, clindamycin, or erythromycin. Forty-two studies from January 1991 to November 2009 were included. The studies were evaluated using the Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy, and all but seven received the highest level of evidence grade. To evaluate efficacy, a side-by-side comparison was made using reduction in acne lesion counts at week 12 for study groups treated with fixed-combination therapy or retinoid monotherapy. Twenty-nine studies containing relevant efficacy data for fixed-combination therapy and retinoid monotherapy are summarized here. Nine studies compared fixed-combination therapy with retinoid monotherapy; in eight of these studies, fixed-combination therapy was significantly more efficacious in reducing acne lesion counts. This evidence-based review analyzes clinical evidence to date for these therapies to provide guidance in determining appropriate treatment for patients with mild-to-moderate acne.

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