Minocycline in Acne Vulgaris

Benefits and Risks


Minocycline is a semi-synthetic, second-generation tetracycline. It was introduced in 1972 and has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Minocycline is used for a variety of infectious diseases and in acne. Even today, new indications beyond the antibacterial indications are being investigated such as its use in neurologic diseases. Formerly, minocycline was thought to have a superior efficacy in the treatment of inflammatory acne, especially with respect to antibacterial-resistant Propionibacterium acnes. A thorough review of the literature, however, shows that minocycline is not more effective in acne than other tetracyclines. Compared with first-generation tetracyclines, minocycline has a better pharmacokinetic profile, and compared with doxycycline it is not phototoxic. However, minocycline has an increased risk of severe adverse effects compared with other tetracyclines. It may induce hypersensitivity reactions affecting the liver, lung, kidneys, or multiple organs (Drug Reaction with Eosinophilia and Systemic Symptoms [DRESS] syndrome) in the first weeks of treatment and, with long-term treatment, may cause autoimmune reactions (systemic lupus erythematosus, autoimmune hepatitis). In addition, CNS symptoms, such as dizziness, are more frequent compared with other tetracyclines. Long-term treatment may induce hyperpigmentation of the skin or other organs. Resistance of P. acnes to minocycline also occurs, dependent on the prescribing behavior.

Considering the aspects of efficacy, its adverse effect profile, resistance, price, and alternatives, minocycline is no longer considered the first-line antibacterial in the treatment of acne.

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No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The author has received lecture fees from companies that produce acne drugs, including Galderma, Hermal, and Stiefel.

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Ochsendorf, F. Minocycline in Acne Vulgaris. Am J Clin Dermatol 11, 327–341 (2010). https://doi.org/10.2165/11319280-000000000-00000

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  • Tetracycline
  • Acne
  • Doxycycline
  • Minocycline
  • Isotretinoin