Isotretinoin (Page 5 of 9)

8.2 Lactation

Risk Summary

There are no data on the presence of isotretinoin in either animal or human milk, the effects on the breastfed infant, or the effects on milk production. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from isotretinoin, advise patients that breastfeeding is not recommended during treatment with isotretinoin, and for at least 8 days after the last dose of isotretinoin.

8.3 Females and Males of Reproductive Potential

All patients who can become pregnant must comply with the iPLEDGE Program requirements [see Warnings and Precautions (5.2)].

Pregnancy Testing

Isotretinoin must only be prescribed to patients who are known not to be pregnant as confirmed by a negative CLIA-certified laboratory conducted pregnancy test. Patients who can become pregnant must have had two negative urine or serum pregnancy tests with a sensitivity of at least 25 mIU/mL before receiving the initial isotretinoin prescription (the interval between the two tests must be at least 19 days).

  • The first test (a screening test) is obtained by the prescriber when the decision is made to prescribe isotretinoin therapy.
  • The second pregnancy test (a confirmation test) is performed after the patient has used 2 forms of contraception for 1 month and during the first 5 days of the menstrual period immediately preceding the beginning of isotretinoin therapy (for patients with regular menstrual cycles) or immediately preceding the beginning of isotretinoin therapy (for patients with amenorrhea, irregular cycles, or using a contraceptive method that precludes withdrawal bleeding).

A pregnancy test must be repeated each month, in a CLIA-certified laboratory prior to the patient receiving each prescription. A pregnancy test must also be completed at the end of the entire course of isotretinoin therapy and 1 month after the discontinuation of isotretinoin.


Patients who can become pregnant must use 2 forms of contraception simultaneously, at least 1 of which must be a primary form, for at least 1 month prior to initiation of isotretinoin therapy, during isotretinoin therapy, and for 1 month after discontinuing isotretinoin therapy. However, 2 forms of contraception is not required if the patient commits to continuous abstinence from not having any sexual contact with a partner which may result in pregnancy, has undergone a hysterectomy or bilateral oophorectomy, or has been medically confirmed to be post-menopausal. Micro-dosed progesterone preparations (“minipills” that do not contain an estrogen) are an inadequate method of contraception during isotretinoin therapy.

Primary forms

Secondary forms

  • Tubal sterilization
  • Male vasectomy
  • Intrauterine device
  • Hormonal (combination oral contraceptives, vaginal systems, vaginal inserts, transdermal systems, injections, or implants)


  • male latex condom with or without spermicide
  • diaphragm with spermicide
  • cervical cap with spermicide


  • Vaginal sponge (contains spermicide)

Any birth control method can fail. There have been reports of pregnancy from patients who have used combination oral contraceptives, as well as contraceptive vaginal systems, vaginal inserts, transdermal systems, and injections; these pregnancies occurred while taking isotretinoin. These reports are more frequent for patients who use only a single method of contraception. Therefore, it is critically important that patients who can become pregnant use 2 methods of contraception simultaneously.

A clinical drug interaction study did not show any clinically significant interaction between isotretinoin and norethindrone and ethinyl estradiol; however, it is not known if there is an interaction between isotretinoin with other progestins [see Drug Interactions (7.5)]. Prescribers are advised to consult the prescribing information of any medication administered concomitantly with hormonal contraceptives, since some medications may decrease the effectiveness of these birth control products.

Patients who can become pregnant should be prospectively cautioned not to self-medicate with the herbal supplement St. John’s Wort because of a possible interaction with hormonal contraceptives based on reports of breakthrough bleeding on oral contraceptives shortly after starting St. John’s Wort. Pregnancies have been reported by users of combined hormonal contraceptives who also used some form of St. John’s Wort.

If the patient has unprotected sexual contact with a partner that could result in pregnancy at any time 1 month before, during, or 1 month after therapy, the patient must:

a. Stop taking isotretinoin immediately, if on therapy
b. Have a pregnancy test at least 19 days after the last act of unprotected sexual contact with a partner that could result in pregnancy
c. Start using 2 forms of contraception simultaneously again for 1 month before resuming isotretinoin therapyd. Have a second pregnancy test after using 2 forms of contraception for 1 month.


In a trial of female acne patients (n = 79) receiving another isotretinoin capsule product, the mean total ovarian volume, the total antral follicle count and mean anti-Mullerian hormone decreased at the end of the treatment (sixth month). However, the values returned to normal at the 18th month (12 months after the end of treatment). There were no statistically significant changes in terms of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, both at the end of the treatment and 12 months after the end of treatment. Although the results suggest that possible deteriorative effects of isotretinoin on ovarian reserve may be reversible, the study has important methodological limitations, including a small sample size, lack of a control group, and lack of generalizability.

Sperm Study

In trials of 66 men, 30 of whom were patients with nodular acne under treatment with oral isotretinoin, no significant changes were noted in the count or motility of spermatozoa in the ejaculate. In a study of 50 men (ages 17 to 32 years) receiving isotretinoin therapy for nodular acne, no significant effects were seen on ejaculate volume, sperm count, total sperm motility, morphology or seminal plasma fructose.

8.4 Pediatric Use

The safety and effectiveness of isotretinoin for the treatment of severe recalcitrant nodular acne have been established in pediatric subjects ages 12 to 17 years. Use of isotretinoin in this age group for this indication is supported by evidence from a clinical trial (Study 1) that compared the use isotretinoin capsules to another isotretinoin capsule product in 397 pediatric subjects (12 to 17 years) [see Clinical Studies (14)] and pharmacokinetic data in pediatric subjects [see Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)].

The safety and effectiveness of isotretinoin in pediatric patients less than 12 years of age have not been established.

Adverse Reactions in Pediatric Subjects

In trials with isotretinoin capsules, adverse reactions reported in pediatric subjects aged 12 to 17 years old were similar to those described in adults except for the increased incidence of back pain and arthralgia (both of which were sometimes severe) and myalgia in pediatric subjects. In a trial of pediatric subjects aged 12 to 17 years old 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 subjects than male subjects. Arthralgias were experienced in 22% (79/358) of pediatric subjects including severe arthralgias in 8% (6/79) of subjects. Appropriate evaluation of the musculoskeletal system should be done in adolescents who present with these symptoms during or after a course of isotretinoin. Consider discontinuing isotretinoin if any significant abnormality is found.

Effects on Bone Mineral Density in Pediatric Subjects

The effect on bone mineral density (BMD) of a 20-week course of therapy with isotretinoin or another isotretinoin capsule product was evaluated in a double-blind, randomized clinical trial involving 396 adolescents with severe recalcitrant nodular acne (mean age 15.4 years old, range 12 to 17 years old, 80% males). Given that there were no statistically significant differences between the two isotretinoin capsule groups following 20 weeks of treatment, the results are presented for the pooled treatment groups. The mean changes in BMD from baseline for the overall trial population were 1.8% for lumbar spine, -0.1% for total hip and -0.3% for femoral neck. Mean BMD Z-scores declined from baseline at each of these sites (-0.053, -0.109 and -0.104 respectively). Out of 306 adolescents, 27 (9%) had clinically significant BMD declines defined as ≥4% lumbar spine or total hip, or ≥5% femoral neck, including 2 subjects for lumbar spine, 17 for total hip and 20 for femoral neck. Repeat DXA scans within 2 to 3 months after the post treatment scan showed no recovery of BMD. Long-term follow-up at 4 to 11 months showed that 3 out of 7 subjects 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. The significance of these changes in regard to long-term bone health and future fracture risk is unknown [see Warnings and Precautions (5.12)].

In an open-label clinical trial (N=217) of a single course of therapy with isotretinoin capsules for adolescents with severe recalcitrant nodular acne, BMD at several skeletal sites were not significantly decreased (lumbar spine change >-4% and total hip change >-5%) or were increased in the majority of subjects. One patient had a decrease in lumbar spine BMD >4% based on unadjusted data. Sixteen (8%) subjects had decreases in lumbar spine BMD >4%, and all the other subjects (92%) did not have significant decreases or had increases (adjusted for body mass index). Nine subjects (5%) had a decrease in total hip BMD >5% based on unadjusted data. Twenty-one (11%) subjects had decreases in total hip BMD >5%, and all the other subjects (89%) did not have significant decreases or had increases (adjusted for body mass index). Follow-up trials performed in 8 of the subjects with decreased BMD for up to 11 months thereafter demonstrated increasing BMD in 5 subjects at the lumbar spine, while the other 3 subjects had lumbar spine BMD measurements below baseline values. Total hip BMD remained below baseline (range -1.6% to -7.6%) in 5 of 8 subjects (63%).

In a separate open-label extension trial of 10 subjects including those ages 13 to 17 years, who started a second course of isotretinoin capsules 4 months after the first course, two subjects showed a decrease in mean lumbar spine BMD up to 3.3%.

Epiphyseal Closure

There are reports of premature epiphyseal closure in acne patients who used isotretinoin at recommended doses. The effect of multiple courses of isotretinoin on epiphyseal closure is unknown. In a 20-week clinical trial that included 289 adolescents who had hand radiographs taken to assess bone age, a total of 9 subjects had bone age changes that were clinically significant and for which an isotretinoin-related effect cannot be excluded [see Warnings and Precautions (5.12)].

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