Isotretinoin: Treatment for severe acne

Isotretinoin: Overview

Isotretinoin patient
Acne can decrease self-confidence and may cause you to avoid social situations.

Isotretinoin (eye-soh-tret-in-OH-in) is a prescription medication for severe acne. This type of acne causes deep, painful cysts and nodules, which can be the size of a pencil eraser or larger. As this acne clears, scars often appear.

Severe acne can be difficult to treat. When other treatments fail to clear the skin, isotretinoin may be an option. Treatment with isotretinoin often results in prolonged clearance of acne, which can be permanent for some patients.

Brand names for isotretinoin include Absorica®, Amnesteem®, Claravis®, Myorisan®, and Zenatane. Some people refer to this medication as Accutane®. This is a brand of isotretinoin that is no longer available.

Warning: When you buy this medication from an online site that does not require a prescription, you put your health at serious risk.

One course of treatment takes about four to five months. Sometimes, one course of treatment takes less time or a bit more time. Dermatologists tailor the treatment to each patient.

Your safety is a dermatologist's first concern. Due to possible side effects, your dermatologist will talk with you about the risks and benefits of isotretinoin and about your health.

This will help your dermatologist decide whether this medication is an option for you. If it is, your dermatologist will share educational materials with you. This can help you decide if you want to take isotretinoin.

If you and your dermatologist decide that isotretinoin is the right choice for you, your dermatologist will enroll you in a risk-management program called iPLEDGE® REMS. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) runs this program, which helps to:

  • Prevent a patient from starting isotretinoin while pregnant.

  • Prevent a patient from becoming pregnant while taking isotretinoin.

This program also helps your dermatologist monitor you while taking isotretinoin. A prescription is good for a 30-day supply of isotretinoin. To get another prescription, you must:

  • See your dermatologist every 30 days for follow-up visit, either in-person or by telemedicine.

Patients who can become pregnant must take a few extra precautions:

  • Take the required pregnancy tests before and while taking isotretinoin.

  • Avoid getting pregnant.

All of these precautions mean that you will be under close medical supervision while taking isotretinoin.

Related AAD resources


Last updated: 12/15/21


All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

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