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What does it do?

Isotretinoin is used to treat acne, and sometimes other skin conditions.

Before you start

  • Isotretinoin must not be used if you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, because of a high risk of abnormalities in the developing baby. It is very important to use reliable contraception while taking isotretinoin and for 1 month after stopping. Talk with your doctor about your contraceptive options.
  • Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding, or if you have high cholesterol or depression.

How should you take it?

Take isotretinoin regularly as directed with food and a glass of water.

What if you forget a dose?

If it is nearly time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time. Otherwise, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Do not take two doses at the same time.

Can you take other medicines?

Some medicines available without a prescription may react with isotretinoin including:

  • products containing vitamin A (including multivitamins)

Tell your pharmacist or doctor about all medicines or treatments that you may be taking, including vitamins, herbal products or recreational drugs.

What side effects might you notice?

Side EffectsRecommended action

Low mood, unusual behaviour or thinking

Headache, changes in vision, pounding in one or both ears (may be intracranial hypertension)

Tell your doctor immediately

Dry or irritated skin, lips, eyes, mouth or nose (including nose bleeds)

Use moisturiser, lip balm and eye drops. Tell your health professional if troublesome.

Trouble seeing at night

Take care when driving at night. Tell your doctor if troublesome.

Joint, muscle or bone aches and pains

More sensitive to sunlight (sunburn or rash)

Hair loss or thinning

Tell your doctor if troublesome

If you notice any other effects, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Other information:

  • Sometimes acne can get worse when you first start isotretinoin. Tell your doctor if this is troublesome.
  • Isotretinoin can make your skin sensitive, so avoid treatments such as waxing, laser or dermabrasion while taking isotretinoin and for 3 to 6 months after stopping.
  • Protect yourself from too much sunlight while being treated with isotretinoin. Always cover up and apply a thick layer of broad spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 30) when outside. Do not use sunbeds.
  • You will need regular blood tests while taking isotretinoin to check if it is causing problems with your liver or cholesterol levels.
  • Do not donate blood while taking isotretinoin, and for 1 month after stopping.

This leaflet contains important, but not all, information about this medicine.

Prepared by the MyMedicines Committee at Christchurch Hospital, Te Whatu Ora - Waitaha, New Zealand. March 2023

For more general information about this sheet and its contents, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

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About My Medicines

My Medicines Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) contain important, but not all, information about the medicines they describe.

For more information about the sheets, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

My Medicines is developed by a team at Te Whatu Ora – Waitaha. Our team is made up of doctors, pharmacists, and a non-medical person to help us keep to plain language. We also discuss our information with specialist health professionals or groups when needed