The question: Teenagers plagued by acne can choose from a vast number of treatment options – lotions and pills, prescription antibiotics and over-the-counter medications. Is one type more effective than another?
This study: randomly assigned 649 young people with facial acne to follow one of five treatment regimens: to take an oral antibiotic – either oxytetracycline (500 milligrams) twice daily or minocycline (100 milligrams) once a day – or to apply one of three types of lotions – a benzoyl peroxide (5 percent) antimicrobial cream twice daily, a cream with benzoyl peroxide (5 percent) and the antibiotic erythromycin (3 percent) twice daily, or an erythromycin (2 percent) cream in the morning and a benzoyl peroxide (5 percent) cream in the evening. After 18 weeks, results were similar for all groups, with at least moderate improvement reported by 55 percent of those who took oxytetracycline, 54 percent for minocycline, 60 percent for the benzoyl peroxide cream, 66 percent for the combined benzoyl peroxide/erythromycin cream and 63 percent for the two creams applied separately.
Who may be affected by these findings? People with facial acne, which most teenagers get at some point.
Caveats: Findings do not necessarily apply to acne on other parts of the body or to people with more severe acne. The effectiveness of the two tetracycline treatments may have been limited by some participants’ resistance to the drug. Reported improvement in all groups was highest during the first six weeks. Three of the 14 authors had received consultants’ fees from makers of acne treatments.
Bottom line: Anyone looking for an anti-acne treatment may want to talk with a dermatologist about various products’ merits, including ease of use, cost and effectiveness, as well as their side effects.
Find this study in the Dec. 18/25 issue of The Lancet; abstract available online at www.thelancet.com.
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