Accutane Alternatives for Treating Acne

Accutane Brand Alternatives and Isotretinoin-Free Medications

Severe acne
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If you're looking for an Accutane alternative to treat your acne, you probably will fall into one of two categories. You either are looking for a substitute brand to Accutane, or you want a medication that does not contain Accutane's active ingredient isotretinoin. No matter which camp you fall into, you'll find all the info you need here.

For alternative Accutane brands, read on below. If you're looking for isotretinoin-free (that is, Accutane-free) acne treatment options, you can skip down to the Isotretinoin-Free Acne Treatments section further down the page.

Accutane Brand Alternatives

The medication that most of us know as Accutane hasn't actually been sold under that brand name since 2009, when the company stopped selling the medication.

Even though Accutane is no longer sold, that doesn't mean you're out of luck. There are still plenty of medications on the market today that contain the same active ingredient: isotretinoin. They're just sold under different brand names. 

Some people (even some doctors) still call any isotretinoin medication "Accutane," simply because it was the first oral isotretinoin acne medication on the market, and the brand is the most well-known.  The bottom line is there are Accutane alternatives, so this treatment option is still available for people with cystic or severe acne.

Generic versions of Accutane have been available since 2002. These versions have the same active ingredient as the Accutane brand, so they work in the same way as the original.

If you're interested in an Accutane brand alternative, your options are:

  • generic isotretinoin
  • Absorica
  • Amnesteem
  • Claravis
  • Sotret

A prescription is needed for all of these medications, and they all have the same side effects as Accutane (namely dry skin, eyes, etc.) Registration in the iPledge program is also required of anyone taking isotretinoin.

Just like with Accutane, these medications are not right for everyone. But, in the right situations, these options are great substitutes for the now non-existent Accutane brand.

Isotretinoin-Free Acne Treatment Options

For some people, though, isotretinoin medication isn't an option.  Or maybe you'd just prefer not to use isotretinoin.  In either case, there are still plenty of treatment options for people with stubborn inflammatory acne or severe acne breakouts.

Topical retinoids are one option. These come in creams, lotions, and gels that you apply to the skin, rather than take in pill form. 

Topical retinoids do some of the same things for your skin that isotretinoin can.  They exfoliate the skin, reduce oiliness, and help keep the pores clear and prevent breakouts from forming.  Just like with Accutane, you'll need a prescription from your doctor for these medications.

Topical retinoid medications include Retin-A and Retin-A Micro (tretinoin), Tazorac (tazarotene), and Differin (adapalene).

Oral antibiotics are another option for treating severe acne.  Since acne is caused, in part, by bacteria oral antibiotics can help get breakouts under control. 

But because bacteria isn't the only culprit, your doctor will most likely prescribe other medications along with oral antibiotics (those topical retinoids, maybe.)

If you're struggling with severe or cystic acne, the best advice really is to see a dermatologist.  These serious forms of acne just don't go away on their own, don't improve with over-the-counter products, and can easily cause scarring. 

Your dermatologist can help you devise the perfect acne treatment plan for your severe acne, utilizing isotretinoin or an isotretinoin-free medication that will work for you.  

Sources:

Baldwin HD.  "Pharmacologic Treatment Options in Mild, Moderate, and Severe Acne Vulgaris."  Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2015 Sep;34(5S):S82-S85.

Webster GF.  "Isotretinoin: Mechinism of Action and Patient Selection."  Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2015 Sep;34(5S):S86-S88.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Scholsser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris.' Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016 May; 74(5):945-73.

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