– There’s really not much reason to shy away from isotretinoin, spironolactone, and oral contraceptives for acne, according to Julie Harper, MD, of the department of dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

There have been concerns with all three in the past, but most of the worries have been recently laid to rest.

The news hasn’t reached everyone, though, so, by and large, they are “tools I think we are not using enough of,” Dr. Harper said in an interview. With isotretinoin, for instance, it really isn’t necessary to do blood work for lipids and liver function every month, a daunting prospect for patients; baseline testing with a repeat at 2 months is sufficient, as long as there’s no dose escalation and results are acceptable, with the exception of a monthly pregnancy test for women, she noted. Meanwhile, there’s no evidence of a link with inflammatory bowel disease, and wound healing isn’t as much of an issue as once thought.

Vidyard Video

It’s the same story with spironolactone. Hyperkalemia is a long-standing concern, but it turns out that “in healthy young women taking spironolactone for acne, we don’t need to be checking potassium.” As far as breast cancer goes, the potential risk with spironolactone hasn’t panned out in the literature, and there may not be “a link at all,” Dr. Harper said at the Hawaii Dermatology Seminar provided by the Global Academy for Medical Education/Skin Disease Education Foundation.

There are caveats, of course. Hormonal treatments shouldn’t be used in young women until they’ve established their menstrual cycle. OCs should not be used in smokers, or people who have hypertension or migraines, among other conditions. Also, elevated triglycerides remain a concern with isotretinoin. “The number I would want people to remember is 500 [mg/dL],” the threshold when triglycerides become a problem.

In the interview, Dr. Harper explained the new thinking on these three options, and shared her treatment tips, including what to do if patients’ triglycerides hit the 500 mg/dL mark.

SDEF/Global Academy for Medical Education and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.