June 4 (UPI) -- Spironolactone, a diuretic drug, might be an effective alternative to antibiotics for the treatment of women's acne, according to a new study.
Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania studied how acne responds to spironolactone, which is marketed under the name Aldactone and CaroSpir, and is currently approved to treat high blood pressure, heart failure and conditions that cause people to retain fluid. Their findings were published in the June issue of the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology.
"It's clear that a safe alternative to oral antibiotics could have a huge benefit, and our data show spironolactone may be that alternative," lead author Dr. John S. Barbieri, dermatology chief resident at Penn, said in a press release.
Because the diuretic blocks the effects of male hormones, including androgen, it's not an option to treat acne in men.
A 2017 study found that more than 50 percent of women in the United States are treated for acne between the ages of 20 and 29, and more than 35 percent are treated between 30 and 39.
Physicians commonly prescribe oral tetracycline-class antibiotics but medical professionals are looking for alternatives to antibiotics over concerns of increased resistance to them. Barbieri also said several studies show long-term oral antibiotic use may be associated with antibiotic resistance, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and colon and breast cancer.
For the new study, 6,684 women and girls took spironolactone and 31,614 were prescribed standard antibiotic treatments.
Within a year, 14.4 percent of spironolactone patients and 13.4 percent of antibiotic patients had switched to different treatments -- which researchers say suggests they have about the same efficacy.
"These numbers suggest dermatologists should consider spironolactone first instead of antibiotics when it comes to women with acne," Barbieri said, who noted the less expensive drugs also have "a better safety profile than oral antibiotics."
Before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the drug for acne, Barbieri said the findings need to be confirmed by a randomized controlled trial.