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Acne Medication

A number of prescription medications are used today to clear acne. Topical (applied to the skin) medications are prescribed for mild to severe acne. Systemic (works internally) therapy is required to treat severe acne and could be used in moderate cases. These medications that play a vital role in treating acne, attack the different factors that lead to it. To get long-term control and resolution, dermatologists often combine therapies.

The following description lists out the prescription medications used in the United States to treat acne:

Interlesional Corticosteroid Injection

When an acne cyst gets severely inflamed, there is a good chance that it might rupture and scarring may result. To treat such severely inflamed cysts and prevent scarring, dermatologists often inject such cysts with a much-diluted corticosteroid. This decreases the inflammation and promotes healing.


Isotretinoin is a potent oral retinoid, reserved for treatment of very severe cystic acne and severe acne which has proven itself resistant to other medications.

Oral Antibiotics

For those suffering from moderate to severe and persistent acne, oral antibiotics have been a mainstay of therapy for years. Just like topical antimicrobials, oral antibiotics also work in reducing the P. acnes population (a contributing factor in acne. This, in turn, reduces inflammation.

The following oral broad-spectrum antibiotics are used to treat acne in the United States:

  • Erythromycin.

It is proven itself effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria, including P. acnes. Its most common side effect is irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, nothing else.

  • Tetracycline and derivatives.

These medications reduce the papules and pustules (inflammatory lesions) of acne but should not be taken by children younger than 8 years of age. They can affect growth and stain teeth. They should also not be taken by a pregnant woman or one who is breast feeding.

  • Oral Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives have been known to effectively clear acne in women. This is done by suppressing the overactive sebaceous glands and can, therefore, be used as long-term acne therapy. Oral contraceptives, however, should not be prescribed to women who smoke, have a blood-clotting disorder, are older than 35 or have a history of migraine headaches.
There are other medications and therapies too, but should only be taken or applied after consulting a qualified dermatologist.