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Researchers Report a Correlation Between Isotretinoin and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Experts have discovered a possible correlation between treatment with isotretinoin and decreased risk of inflammatory bowel disease, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association Dermatology.

Experts have discovered a possible correlation between treatment with isotretinoin and decreased risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association Dermatology (JAMA Dermatology).

Researchers have put forth several hypotheses regarding this possible relationship. Prior research had speculated isotretinoin, the standard treatment for severe nodulocystic acne, might act as a catalyst to increase the risk of ulcerative colitis (UC). Others surmised no association between exposure to isotretinoin and IBD. Therefore, finding conflicting data, the authors of the current study hoped to examine this uncertainty of isotretinoin exposure.

Researchers obtained information from the National Health Insurance System and the electronic medical records of patients who were interested in acne treatment and reviewed for isotretinoin exposure. The authors were specifically searching for individuals who presented with symptoms of Crohn’s disease (CD) and UC, and were subsequently diagnosed with IBD. The study included 1,078 participants with references to isotretinoin in their records from 1995 to 2011 (576 patients exposed to isotretinoin and 502 without exposure). The researchers note that there was no concrete causal effect of isotretinoin on all IBD patients.

Shadi Rashtak, MD, and lead researcher of the study, commented, “We found that among a population of mainly acne patients those who received isotretinoin had a lower risk of Inflammatory bowel disease as compared to those who did not take this medication. We carefully reviewed the medical records of patients to ensure that this finding was not simply because the drug was avoided in patients with a previous personal or family history of IBD.”

“Our study did not show an increased risk of IBD with prior isotretinoin use. If anything, the risk seemed to be decreased. Although these results may be due to chance given the small number of IBD cases, the anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects of isotretinoin may be worth exploring,” the authors wrote.