Efficacy comparison of antibiotics or oral contraceptives for treatment of acne vulgaris
Petersen, Tyler Daniel
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Acne vulgaris is an extremely common disease, affecting large numbers of adolescents and adults, with substantial physical and psychosocial impacts. Antibiotics have been used for many years in the anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory treatment of acne, and have generated reasonable success rates. In recent years, along with a growing popularity of oral contraceptives to reduce unwanted pregnancies, they have also been applied in acne treatment because of their overall anti-androgenic effects. Very little direct comparisons between these two methods have been published, and this study serves as a preliminary measure for the effectiveness of both treatments against each other. Using an extensive literature search of PUBMED and MEDLINE for randomized clinical trials involving antibiotics or oral contraceptives, data were taken and used in an analysis to assess efficiency of both drug groups in the reduction of lesion counts and percentage reduction in inflammatory acne lesions, non-inflammatory lesions, and total lesions based off original baseline counts in each study. A total of 15 studies were used in the analysis. Antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and placebo treatment groups were evaluated at three months’ time, while oral contraceptives and placebo treatments were also continued out to six months to reflect longer trial durations. In all cases, antibiotics were superior to placebo at three months. Oral contraceptives were also superior to all placebo arms at both three and six months, except for in the average percent reduction of total lesions where the placebo at six months is not significantly different than the contraceptives at three months. Antibiotics and contraceptives showed no significant difference between each other at three or six months times, except for the lesion number reduction at three months for inflammatory lesions compared to antibiotics. All comparisons used the average percentage or number reduction, and 95% confidence intervals to determine significance. After three months, antibiotics showed a 45.40% weighted mean reduction in total lesion counts, compared to 36.41% for oral contraceptives at three months and 43.76% at six months. With the confidence intervals, the ranges for significance are 38.40%-52.40%, 31.92%-40.90%, and 33.87%-53.64% respectively, corresponding to an insignificant difference between all three treatments. Percentage changes for both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesion reductions were also similar in their confidence intervals overlapping. The study showed a surprising similarity between antibiotics and contraceptives in their ability to treat acne, in both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions. With the exception of the three month antibiotics out-performing the oral contraceptives at three months’ time for reduction of inflammatory lesions, the percentage reduction was not significantly different, indicating discrepancies with starting numbers. Overall, both treatments were effective in the treatment of acne lesions, but the limitations of oral contraceptives including their utility is confined to women, and the relatively short recommended treatment time for oral antibiotics each have their drawbacks. Oral contraceptives seem to represent a better long term treatment plan for women who are comfortable taking birth control.
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