Why Roaccutane is not always the best treatment for acne

Why Roaccutane is not always the best treatment for acne

By Dr Fatima Ahmed

Roaccutane is the wonder drug for clearing up acne, right? Wrong! For some patients, it is undoubtedly the best option, but for most people alternative treatments that don’t carry the same risks of serious side effects are more appropriate.


A magic wand?

I often have patients coming to me for acne who ask to be prescribed Roaccutane. There are few medicines that have the same reputation that they are requested by name by people who haven’t tried them already. Roaccutane has joined this elite list because a lot of us know someone whose skin has been dramatically improved by a course of this Vitamin-A drug. If you’ve got acne, it might seem like the magic wand you have been looking for.

Side effects

However, Roaccutane is a very strong drug with a number of side effects. Common ones (affecting one in ten people) include: skin becoming more sensitive to sunlight, dry eyes, dry throat, dry nose and nosebleeds, headaches and general aches and pains. Serious side effects are rare, affecting fewer than one in 1,000 people, but include: depression (including anxiety, aggression and suicidal thoughts), serious skin rashes and blisters, liver and kidney problems and severe headaches (causing nausea and vomiting).


Respecting Roaccutane

Due to its potential side effects, Roaccutane must be prescribed and supervised by a doctor. It is also normally only used for very severe cases of acne in teenagers and adults (it can’t be given to children under the age of 12). Very occasionally, I see a patient for whom I believe Roaccutane is the best treatment, or I might recommend Roaccutane if we have not got the results we would like through other treatments – but I can count the number of these per year on one hand.  If I do feel a patient would benefit from using Roaccutane, I would refer them onto a Roaccutane prescribing Dermatologist.


Alternative options

For the vast majority of acne patients – even those with severe acne – we can achieve the improvements to their skin that they are looking for through less invasive solutions. We have a whole range of treatments for tackling the excess oil and infection that lead to blackheads and spots, as well as for improving the look and texture of the skin, including reducing scarring and evening out pigmentation.


Roaccutane has a useful role to play in tackling very severe acne, but its potential side effects mean it must be treated with respect and used sparingly. For the vast majority of patients, less invasive treatments will prove effective at controlling their acne and reducing the impact of scarring and hyperpigmentation.

Book a no-obligation consultation to discuss acne treatment and other dermatology procedures with Dr Fatima Ahmed

Call 01892 22 22 22

Dr. Fatima Ahmed


Meet the expert

Dr Fatima Ahmed is a speciality doctor in dermatology and aesthetics, with special interests in acne, mole and skin lesion diagnosis.  With medical qualifications from Pakistan, Canada, the UK and USA, she achieved academic distinction at Cardiff University and received the Chancellor International Scholarship award at the University of Hertfordshire.  She has worked in South Asia, the Middle East and the UK