Clinical Pharmacokinetics

, Volume 46, Issue 8, pp 697–712

Pharmacokinetics of Dapsone Gel, 5% for the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris

  • Diane M. Thiboutot
  • Jonathan Willmer
  • Harry Sharata
  • Rebat Halder
  • Steven Garrett
Original Research Article

DOI: 10.2165/00003088-200746080-00006

Cite this article as:
Thiboutot, D.M., Willmer, J., Sharata, H. et al. Clin Pharmacokinet (2007) 46: 697. doi:10.2165/00003088-200746080-00006



Oral dapsone has been available for over 60 years and has been used to treat severe acne vulgaris; however, the oral formulation is known to cause dose-dependent haematological reactions and is currently indicated only for diseases such as dermatitis herpetiformis and Hansen’s disease. A gel formulation of dapsone was recently developed to treat acne vulgaris. As dapsone is administered topically, it was expected that systemic absorption would be considerably lower than that observed with oral dapsone therapy, thereby avoiding any adverse haematological effects.


To report the pharmacokinetic profile of topically applied dapsone gel, 5% in the treatment of acne vulgaris.

Study participants and methods

Three prospective, open-label studies enrolled a total of 548 subjects with acne vulgaris: two phase I pharmacokinetic studies (crossover and drug interaction) and one phase III long-term safety study. In the crossover study (n = 18), topical dapsone gel applied twice daily for a total of 14 days to 22.5% of the body surface area was compared with a single dose of oral dapsone 100mg (the typical clinical dose). In the drug-interaction study (n = 24), oral trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole monotherapy, topical dapsone gel monotherapy and the two in combination were used twice daily for 7, 21 and 7 days, respectively. In the long-term safety study (n = 506), topical dapsone gel was applied twice daily to acne-affected areas for up to 12 months. Blood samples were drawn at various timepoints in each study to assess drug and metabolite concentrations. Systemic concentrations of dapsone, N-acetyl dapsone, dapsone hydroxylamine, trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole were determined, according to the study design.


In the crossover study, the mean area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC) from 0 to 24 hours for dapsone was 417.5 ng · h/mL after 2 weeks of dapsone gel therapy (n = 10), compared with an AUC from time zero to infinity of 52 641 ng · h/mL after a single dose of oral dapsone; this represents a 126-fold lower systemic exposure for dapsone gel at typical therapeutic doses. In the drug-interaction study, the AUC from 0 to 12 hours for dapsone was 221.52 ng · h/mL after 3 weeks of dapsone gel monotherapy compared with 320.3 ng · h/mL after 1 week of coadministration with trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole. In the long-term safety study, the mean plasma dapsone concentrations ranged from 7.5 to 11 ng/mL over 12 months. Overall, total systemic exposures to dapsone and its metabolites were approximately 100-fold less for dapsone gel than for oral dapsone, even in the presence of trimethoprim/ sulfamethoxazole. There were no reports of any haematological adverse events.


Topical application of dapsone gel in various settings ranging from 2 weeks to 12 months resulted in systemic exposures to dapsone and its metabolites that were approximately 100-fold less than those after oral dapsone at a therapeutic dose level. The concentrations of dapsone and its metabolites reached steady state and did not increase during prolonged treatment.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane M. Thiboutot
    • 1
  • Jonathan Willmer
    • 2
  • Harry Sharata
    • 3
  • Rebat Halder
    • 4
  • Steven Garrett
    • 5
  1. 1.Pennsylvania State University College of MedicineHersheyUSA
  2. 2.Cantest Clinical Research LtdVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Madison Skin and Research, Inc.MadisonUSA
  4. 4.Howard University College of MedicineWashingtonUSA
  5. 5.QLT USA, Inc.Fort CollinsUSA
  6. 6.Department of Dermatology, HU14, Milton S. Hershey Medical CenterPennsylvania State UniversityHersheyUSA