Isotretinoin (Page 3 of 9)

5.9 Hearing Impairment

Impaired hearing has been reported in patients taking isotretinoin; in some cases, the hearing impairment has been reported to persist after therapy has been discontinued. Mechanism(s) and causality for this reaction have not been established. Patients who experience tinnitus or hearing impairment should discontinue isotretinoin treatment and be referred for specialized care for further evaluation.

5.10 Hepatotoxicity

Clinical hepatitis has been reported with isotretinoin use. Additionally, mild to moderate elevations of liver enzymes have been observed in approximately 15% of individuals treated during clinical trials with isotretinoin capsules, some of which normalized with dosage reduction or continued administration of the drug. If normalization does not readily occur or if hepatitis is suspected during treatment, isotretinoin should be discontinued.

5.11 Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Isotretinoin has been associated with inflammatory bowel disease (including regional ileitis) in patients without a prior history of intestinal disorders. In some instances, symptoms have been reported to persist after isotretinoin treatment has been stopped. Patients experiencing abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or severe diarrhea should discontinue isotretinoin immediately [see Adverse Reactions (6)].

5.12 Musculoskeletal Abnormalities

Bone Mineral Density Changes, Osteoporosis, and Fractures

Isotretinoin may have a negative effect on bone mineral density (BMD) in some patients. In a clinical trial of isotretinoin and another isotretinoin capsule product, 27/306 (9%) of adolescents had BMD declines, defined as ≥4% lumbar spine or total hip, or ≥5% femoral neck, during the 20-week treatment period. Repeat scans conducted within 2 to 3 months after the post-treatment scan showed no recovery of BMD. Long-term data at 4 to 11 months showed that 3 out of 7 patients had total hip and femoral neck BMD below pre-treatment baseline, and 2 others did not show the increase in BMD above baseline expected in this adolescent population. Therefore, healthcare providers should use caution when prescribing isotretinoin to patients with a history of childhood osteoporosis conditions, osteomalacia, or other disorders of bone metabolism. This would include patients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and those who are on chronic drug therapy that causes drug-induced osteoporosis/osteomalacia and/or affects vitamin D metabolism, such as systemic corticosteroids and any anticonvulsant [see Use in Specific Populations (8.4)].

There have been spontaneous reports of osteoporosis, osteopenia, fractures and/or delayed healing of fractures in patients while on therapy with isotretinoin or following cessation of therapy with isotretinoin.

Patients in early and late adolescence who participate in sports with repetitive impact may be at an increased risk of spondylolisthesis with and without pars fractures, and hip growth plate injuries have been reported.

Musculoskeletal Abnormalities

Approximately 16% of patients treated with isotretinoin capsules in a clinical trial developed musculoskeletal symptoms (including arthralgia) during treatment. In general, these symptoms were mild to moderate, but occasionally required discontinuation of isotretinoin.

In a trial of pediatric patients treated with isotretinoin capsules, approximately 29% (104/358) developed back pain. Back pain was severe in 14% (14/104) of the cases and occurred at a higher frequency in female patients than male patients. Arthralgias were experienced in 22% (79/358) of pediatric patients. Arthralgias were severe in 8% (6/79) of patients. Appropriate evaluation of the musculoskeletal system should be done in patients who present with these symptoms during or after a course of isotretinoin. Consider discontinuing isotretinoin if any significant abnormality is found.

Effects of multiple courses of isotretinoin on the developing musculoskeletal system are unknown. There is some evidence that long-term, high-dose, or multiple courses of therapy with isotretinoin have more of an effect than a single course of therapy on the musculoskeletal system. It is important that isotretinoin be given at the recommended dose for no longer than the recommended duration.


A high prevalence of skeletal hyperostosis was noted in clinical trials for disorders of keratinization with a mean dose of 2.24 mg/kg/day of isotretinoin capsules (approximately 1.1 times the maximum recommended daily dosage). Additionally, skeletal hyperostosis was noted in 6 of 8 patients in a prospective trial of disorders of keratinization. Minimal skeletal hyperostosis and calcification of ligaments and tendons have also been observed by x-ray in prospective trials of nodular acne patients treated with a single course of therapy at recommended doses. The skeletal effects of multiple isotretinoin treatment courses for acne are unknown.

In a clinical trial of 217 pediatric patients (12 to 17 years) with severe recalcitrant nodular acne, hyperostosis was not observed after 16 to 20 weeks of treatment with approximately 1 mg/kg/day of isotretinoin capsules given in two divided doses. Hyperostosis may require a longer time frame to appear. The clinical course and significance remain unknown.

Premature Epiphyseal Closure

There are spontaneous literature reports of premature epiphyseal closure in acne patients receiving recommended doses of isotretinoin capsules. The effect of multiple courses of isotretinoin on epiphyseal closure is unknown.

In a 20-week clinical trial that included 289 adolescents on isotretinoin or another isotretinoin capsule product who had hand radiographs taken to assess bone age, a total of 9 (3%) patients had bone age changes that were clinically significant and for which a drug-related effect cannot be excluded.

5.13 Ocular Abnormalities

Visual problems should be carefully monitored. If visual difficulties occur, discontinue isotretinoin treatment and obtain an ophthalmological examination [see Adverse Reactions (6)].

Corneal Opacities

Corneal opacities have occurred in patients receiving isotretinoin capsules and more frequently when higher drug dosages were used in patients with disorders of keratinization. The corneal opacities that have been observed in clinical trial patients treated with isotretinoin capsules have either completely resolved or were resolving at follow-up 6 to 7 weeks after discontinuation of isotretinoin [see Adverse Reactions (6)].

Decreased Night Vision

Decreased night vision has been reported during isotretinoin use and in some instances the event has persisted after therapy was discontinued. Because the onset in some patients was sudden, patients should be advised of this potential problem and warned to be cautious when driving or operating any vehicle at night.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes has been reported in patients during isotretinoin use. Patients who wear contact lenses may have trouble wearing them while on isotretinoin treatment and afterwards.

5.14 Hypersensitivity Reactions

Anaphylactic reactions and other allergic reactions have been reported with isotretinoin use. Cutaneous allergic reactions and serious cases of allergic vasculitis, often with purpura (bruises and red patches) of the extremities and extracutaneous involvement (including renal) have been reported. Severe allergic reaction necessitates discontinuation of therapy and appropriate medical management.

5.15 Laboratory Abnormalities and Laboratory Monitoring for Adverse Reactions

Laboratory Monitoring

Pregnancy Testing

A pregnancy test must be obtained prior to obtaining a prescription, repeated each month, at the end of the entire course of isotretinoin therapy and 1 month after the discontinuation of isotretinoin [see Use in Specific Populations (8.3)].

Lipid Tests

Pretreatment and follow-up fasting lipid tests should be obtained under fasting conditions. After consumption of alcohol, at least 36 hours should elapse before testing is performed. It is recommended that these tests be performed periodically until the lipid response to isotretinoin is known. The incidence of hypertriglyceridemia is 25% in patients treated with isotretinoin capsules [see Warnings and Precautions (5.8)].

Liver Function Tests

As elevations of liver enzymes have been observed during clinical trials, and hepatitis has been reported in patients on isotretinoin capsules, pretreatment and follow-up liver function tests should be performed periodically until the response to isotretinoin is known [see Warnings and Precautions (5.10)].

Additional Laboratory Abnormalities


With isotretinoin use, some patients have experienced problems in the control of their blood sugar. In addition, new cases of diabetes have been diagnosed during isotretinoin use.


Some patients undergoing vigorous physical activity while taking isotretinoin have experienced elevated CPK levels; however, the clinical significance is unknown. There have been rare postmarketing reports of rhabdomyolysis with isotretinoin use, some associated with strenuous physical activity. In a clinical trial of 924 patients, marked elevations in CPK (≥350 U/L) were observed in approximately 24% of patients treated with isotretinoin capsules.

In another clinical trial of 217 pediatric patients (12 to 17 years old) elevations in CPK were observed in 12% of patients, including those undergoing strenuous physical activity in association with reported musculoskeletal adverse events such as back pain, arthralgia, limb injury, or muscle sprain. In these patients, approximately half of the CPK elevations returned to normal within 2 weeks and half returned to normal within 4 weeks. No cases of rhabdomyolysis were reported in this clinical trial.

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