Lack of birth control information poses danger for women on common acne drug, study finds

Women taking a widely prescribed treatment for acne, known to cause birth defects, are often not fully aware of their contraceptive choices, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings, published today in JAMA Dermatology, underscore the need to provide women with more information about and greater access to the most effective contraceptives.

For patients suffering from severe acne, isotretinoin, sometimes called by the brand-name Accutane, continues to be one of the most effective medications prescribed.

Because isotretinoin is known to induce if taken while pregnant, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strictly regulates its distribution to women of childbearing age through a federal program called iPledge, which requires women to review an educational booklet, complete monthly comprehension tests, use two forms of contraception and take a series of pregnancy tests.

"Isotretinoin is one of the most problematic medications to take during pregnancy; however, efforts to help women avoid pregnancy while receiving this treatment have been relatively unsuccessful," explained Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, M.D., M.S., director of the women's health services research unit at the Center for Research on Health Care, Pitt School of Medicine, and senior author of the study. "Our research study was designed to better understand the messages that women receive through the iPledge program about contraception."

Led by Dr. Schwarz, the researchers interviewed 16 women about their experiences with the iPledge program, including counseling about isotretinoin and , past history of contraceptive use, and the role of friends, family and the media in influencing contraceptive choices. The participants also were asked to provide feedback on how to improve pregnancy prevention counseling for other women in the iPledge Program.

Researchers found that women who had participated in the iPledge program clearly understood isotretinoin's adverse effect on pregnancy. However, the women reported receiving less information about how to effectively protect themselves from unintended pregnancies while using the medication. In fact, no women were fully informed about their contraceptive options, and many had misconceptions about highly effective, reversible contraceptives, such as subdermal implants and intrauterine devices.

"Unfortunately, our medical community has a long tradition of telling women not to get pregnant without equipping them with the tools they need to avoid ," Dr. Schwarz notes. "The findings from our qualitative study indicate that dermatologists and other professionals need to ensure they are providing comprehensive education and access to contraceptives that will fully protect from while taking this medication."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Contraception in women over 40

Mar 04, 2013

Despite declining fertility, women over age 40 still require effective contraception if they wish to avoid pregnancy. A review article outlines the risks and benefits of various contraceptive options for these women. The ...

Recommended for you

Prolonged, heavy bleeding during menopause is common

Apr 15, 2014

Women going through menopause most likely think of it as the time for an end to predictable monthly periods. Researchers at the University of Michigan say it's normal, however, for the majority of them to experience an increase ...

Italy IVF patient pregnant with wrong embryos

Apr 13, 2014

A woman who underwent fertility treatment at a clinic in Rome became pregnant with the twins of another couple after their embryos were mixed up, press reports said Sunday.

Abuse not tied to pain severity in chronic pelvic pain

Apr 11, 2014

(HealthDay)—A history of adolescent or adult abuse is not associated with pain severity, but is linked to pain-related disability and depression in women with chronic pelvic pain (CPP), according to a study ...

User comments