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Combined oral contraceptive pills for treatment of acne.

Author(s): Arowojolu AO, Gallo MF, Lopez LM, Grimes DA, Garner SE

Affiliation(s): Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, College of Medicine, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.

Publication date & source: 2009-07-08, Cochrane Database Syst Rev., (3):CD004425.

Publication type: Meta-Analysis; Review

BACKGROUND: Acne is a common skin disorder among women. Although no uniform approach to the management of acne exists, combination oral contraceptives (COCs), which contain an estrogen and a progestin, often are prescribed for women. OBJECTIVES: To determine the effectiveness of combined oral contraceptives (COCs) for the treatment of facial acne compared to placebo or other active therapies. SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched for randomized controlled trials of COCs and acne in the computerized databases of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, POPLINE, and LILACS. We also searched for clinical trials in ClinicalTrials.gov and the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). We wrote to authors of identified trials to seek any unpublished or published trials that we might have missed. SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomized controlled trials reported in any language that compared the effectiveness of a COC containing an estrogen and a progestin to placebo or another active therapy for acne in women were eligible. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We extracted data on total and specific (i.e., open or closed comedones, papules, pustules and nodules) facial lesion counts; acne severity grades; global assessments by the clinician or the participant and discontinuation due to adverse events. Data were entered and analyzed in RevMan. MAIN RESULTS: The search yielded 25 trials: 7 placebo-controlled trials made 4 different comparisons, 17 trials made 13 comparisons between 2 different COC regimens, and 1 additional trial compared a COC to an antibiotic. COCs reduced acne lesion counts, severity grades and self-assessed acne compared to placebo. Differences in the comparative effectiveness of COCs containing varying progestin types and dosages, though, were less clear. COCs that contained chlormadinone acetate or cyproterone acetate improved acne better than levonorgestrel, although this apparent advantage was based on limited data. A COC with cyproterone acetate might result in better acne outcomes than one with desogestrel; however, the three studies comparing these COCs produced conflicting results. Likewise, levonorgestrel showed a slight improvement over desogestrel in acne outcomes in one trial, but a second trial found the COC groups were similar. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The four COCs evaluated in placebo-controlled trials are effective in reducing inflammatory and non-inflammatory facial acne lesions. Few important differences were found between COC types in their effectiveness for treating acne. How COCs compare to alternative acne treatments is unknown since limited data were available regarding this question.

Page last updated: 2009-10-20

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