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J Dermatolog Treat. 2012 Aug;23(4):272-7. doi: 10.3109/09546634.2012.671908. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Isotretinoin and oral contraceptive use in female acne patients varies by physician specialty: analysis of data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Center for Dermatology Research, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.



To determine whether oral contraceptives (OCPs) are underutilized in the treatment of acne in women of reproductive age, how use of OCPs compares with use of isotretinoin and whether adequate use and documentation of OCPs is occurring with isotretinoin.


The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) was analyzed over the years 1993-2008 for isotretinoin and OCP use in females aged 12-55 with acne.


Isotretinoin was prescribed more often than OCPs at both first visits (4.7% vs. 3.3%) and overall visits (13% vs. 2.6%) for acne. Documentation of OCP or other contraceptive use occurred only 4.1% of the time overall in patients treated with isotretinoin. Specialties varied in both OCP use for acne and contraceptive use with isotretinoin, with ob/gyn specialists most likely to prescribe OCPs and isotretinoin and to report contraceptive use in patients using isotretinoin, and dermatologists least likely to prescribe OCPs.


The findings of the current study indicate that OCPs may be underutilized in women with acne. Underreporting of contraceptive use with isotretinoin and variations between specialties in OCP and isotretinoin use indicate a potential for education about the viability of OCPs in acne treatment and the importance of reporting contraceptive use with isotretinoin.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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