Acne drug wastes millions of NHS poundsDTB says other drugs are safer

16 August 2006

Doctors are wasting millions of pounds of NHS money by prescribing an acne drug that costs more than treatments which are safer.

That’s the conclusion of a report in the latest issue of Which?’s Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB), the independent ‘doctors’ bible’ which rates treatments.

Minocycline, an oral antibiotic commonly used to treat moderate to severe acne, cost the NHS in England £9.3 million last year. But a similar drug, doxycycline, would have cost only £3.9 million.

Acne drugs

DTB found that of the other antibiotics used for treating acne, even the most expensive alternative would save the NHS £50,000 a year.

Minocycline is often prescribed because doctors believe that it’s more effective, easier to take and less likely to cause bacterial resistance than other similar antibiotics.

However DTB found evidence suggesting that these other antibiotics are just as effective in treating acne and don’t have the serious side effects associated with minocycline. These include darkening of the skin and other tissues, which may be permanent.

Safer for patients

In addition, minocycline is much more than likely than other drugs in its group to result in lupus-like syndrome, a form of arthritis. 

Dr Ike Iheanacho, Editor of DTB, said: ‘There is no good reason to justify using minocycline as a treatment for acne, given the availability of less expensive, alternative antibiotics that are just as effective and much safer for patients.

‘By using these other treatments, doctors could help to save millions, a crucial point given the current financial climate for the NHS.’