Acne medication associated with abnormal blood test results

Elevated cholesterol levels and liver enzyme levels appear to be more common than previously thought among patients taking the acne medication isoretinoin, including those who had normal blood test results before beginning therapy, according to a report in the August issue of Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Isoretinoin, commonly marketed as Accutane, is the most effective acne treatment currently available, according to background information in the article. As many as 89 percent of patients taking the medication achieve long-term remission from acne. Side effects include elevations in the levels of triglycerides, blood fats that can have an adverse effect on cardiovascular health; liver enzymes, the presence of which indicates liver disease or inflammation; and total blood cholesterol. According to the article, the Accutane package insert notes that 25 percent of patients develop elevated triglycerides and 15 percent elevated liver enzymes. Other studies have found elevated triglycerides in 5 to 18 percent and elevated total cholesterol in 6 to 32 percent of individuals taking the drug.

Lee T. Zane, M.D., M.A.S., University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues assessed the frequency of abnormal laboratory tests in a population of 13,772 patients (aged 13 to 50 years, 51 percent male and 49 percent female) with acne who underwent isoretinoin therapy between 1995 and 2002. The researchers analyzed medical records for each patient before, during and after they took the medication, using information from laboratory tests of triglycerides; total cholesterol; liver transaminase (enzymes) levels; white blood cell (cells that fight infection) count; hemoglobin (which carries oxygen through the body) level; and platelet (involved in blood clotting) count.

Patients taking isoretinoins had an increased incidence of elevated triglyceride, total cholesterol and liver enzyme levels, but not hemoglobin lev

Contact: Vanessa deGier
JAMA and Archives Journals

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