Lack of research into widely used acne treatments could be limiting their effectiveness

August 29, 2011

There are many products that are publicised as cures for acne, often at considerable expense to both consumers and the health-care system, but there is very little evidence of which ones work best and for whom. Few studies have compared treatments against each other in terms of effectiveness and safety. Furthermore, concerns that the long-term use of antibiotics to treat acne might contribute to bacterial resistance increases the urgency to test treatment regimens and to develop more effective non-antibiotic therapies, according to a Seminar, published Online First in The Lancet.

"The large number of products and product combinations, and the scarcity of comparative studies, has led to disparate guidelines with few recommendations being evidence-based", explains lead author Hywel Williams from the Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK. As a result, even recent guidelines (including those from the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne and the American Academy of Dermatology) are based on the opinion of experts. This is of concern because without evidence to support practice recommendations, there is the potential for .

Although acne affects almost all young people to some degree, relatively little is known about its causes and treatment. Factors such as diet, sunlight, and skin hygiene have all been implicated, but supportive evidence is lacking. Acne suffers could be going to great lengths to change their lifestyles and it might make no difference at all, explain the authors.

According to the Seminar: "Almost half of recently published acne trials contain serious flaws that could be overcome by better reporting... The absence of trials with active comparators is a significant handicap to shared making. Clinical trials of cost-effectiveness of different strategies for initial treatment and of acne are needed."

This lack of well-conducted research to test over-the-counter and prescription therapies is putting patients at risk of ineffective treatment and makes treatment decisions for patients and doctors very difficult. This has prompted the Institute of Medicine in the USA to target comparative-effectiveness research on acne therapy as one of the top 100 targets for national research.

There is also considerable concern that the overuse of antibiotics to treat acne will lead to the development of resistance, especially since they are used for long periods at low doses. The authors suggest restricting the use of antibiotics as maintenance treatment because alternatives such as benzoyl peroxide might work just as well.

The authors conclude by calling for new research into the comparative effectiveness of common topical and systemic therapies and to improve the understanding of the natural history, specific types, and triggers of , and how treatment affects the course of this poorly understood disease.

Explore further: Long-term use of antibiotic to treat acne not associated with increased bacterial resistance

More information: Journal paper: www.thelancet.com/journals/lan … (11)60321-8/abstract

Related Stories

Long-term use of antibiotic to treat acne not associated with increased bacterial resistance

April 11, 2011
The prolonged use of tetracycline antibiotics commonly used to treat acne was associated with a reduced prevalence of StaphylococcuS. aureus bacteria and was not associated with increased resistance to the tetracycline antibiotics, ...

Recommended for you

Opioids overused in migraine treatment, regardless of race, study finds

August 17, 2017
African-Americans are more likely to experience debilitating migraine headaches than whites, but a new study probing the issue found no evidence of racial disparities in treatment practices.

Finding better ways to reduce serious drug side effects

August 14, 2017
Many of the medicines we depend on to treat disease—and even to save our lives—pose potentially serious risks along with their benefits. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that about ...

Ultrasound-triggered liposomes for on-demand, local anesthesia

August 10, 2017
Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital have found a new way to non-invasively relieve pain at local sites in the body; such systems could one day improve pain management by replacing addictive opioids and short-lasting ...

Independent pharmacies and online coupons help patients save money on drugs

August 8, 2017
Uninsured patients or those with limited prescription drug coverage can save significant money by buying their drugs at independent pharmacies instead of big box, grocery or chain drug stores and by using discount coupons, ...

New study generates more accurate estimates of state opioid and heroin fatalities

August 7, 2017
Although opioid and heroin deaths have been rising dramatically in the U.S., the magnitude of the epidemic varies from state to state, as does the relative proportion of opioid vs heroin poisonings. Further complicating the ...

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dirk_bruere
not rated yet Aug 30, 2011
Aspirin dissolved in conc green tea applied topically twice a day

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.