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FDA Approves First Retinoid for OTC Acne Treatment

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The Food and Drug Administration has approved adapalene gel 0.1% for over-the-counter use, making it the first retinoid for treating acne that will be available in the United States without a prescription.

The approval also makes the product, marketed as Differin Gel 0.1%, “the first new active ingredient for acne treatment for OTC use since the 1980s,” according to an FDA statement announcing the approval July 8. Differin Gel is approved for use in people aged 12 years and older.

The switch to OTC status was supported by postmarketing safety data; by consumer studies data, which included a label comprehension study, a self-selection study, and an “actual use” study; and data from a “maximal use” study submitted by the manufacturer.

“Overall, results from the consumer studies showed that consumers can understand the information on the OTC label, appropriately select whether the product is right for them, and use the product appropriately,” according to the FDA statement. “The maximal use trial, a study of absorption of the drug through acne-affected skin when applied daily over a large surface area (face, shoulders, upper back, and chest), demonstrated that absorption is limited, thus supporting safe use of Differin Gel 0.1% by people using it OTC.”

The FDA noted that “some other retinoid drugs have been shown to cause birth defects,” and it advises that women “who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or [are] breast-feeding” should ask a doctor before using the product.

“While there have been no adequate and well-controlled studies of Differin Gel 0.1% in pregnant women, there is no specific evidence that Differin Gel 0.1%, when used topically as directed, causes birth defects in humans,” according to the FDA.

Consumers should follow the OTC Drug Facts label “and consult with their health care providers if their symptoms do not improve,” the FDA added.

At an April 2016 meeting, the FDA’s nonprescription drugs advisory committee unanimously voted that the safety of adapalene gel 0.1% for OTC use for treating acne had been “adequately demonstrated.”

Galderma Laboratories markets Differin Gel 0.1%.

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