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12-05-2011 | Dermatology | Article

Isotretinoin does not negatively affect sleep or executive function



MedWire News: Results from two studies suggest that contrary to previous claims, the acne medication isotretinoin does not adversely affect sleep or parameters of executive function.

Isotretinoin is an effective acne medication, but has been associated with a variety of side effects. Animal study data has suggested that it may cause impairments in learning and memory and influence human brain metabolism, and there have been a few case reports suggesting it may alter sleep architecture.

To investigate the claims about sleep alteration, Sevda Ismailogullari (Erciyes University Medical Faculty, Kayseri, Turkey) and colleagues followed up 12 severe acne vulgaris patients during their first month of treatment with isotretinoin 0.5 mg/kg.

Polysomnography was used to measure the effects of the drug on sleep architecture. The researchers found that sleep efficiency actually increased slightly from 83.5% at baseline to 89.5% at 1 month, although latency decreased from 18.0 min to 15.5 min. No other effects on sleep were observed, however.

In the other study, Özgür Bakar (Acibadem University, Istanbul, Turkey) and team carried out neuropsychological tests for attention and executive function on 63 severe acne patients treated with isotretinoin. Measurements were taken at the end of the first and third months and at treatment completion.

In total, 11 patients reported having symptoms of anger and depression, but these mostly resolved spontaneously without further treatment.

However, no adverse effects of isotretinoin on mood or executive function were observed. The researchers note that some executive functions and anger control showed signs of improvement with treatment.

"Although dermatologists are extremely concerned about psychiatric adverse effects of isotretinoin, our data support no causal relation between isotretinoin and depression in acne patients," write Bakar et al.

"Moreover, anxiety, attention and executive functions seem to be unaffected," they say.

Regarding their results, Ismailogullari and co-authors conclude: "Further studies with a placebo group and higher number of patient groups with smaller ages are needed for a better understanding of the impact of the isotretinoin on sleep regulation."

Both studies are published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Helen Albert