HealthDay News — Oral contraceptive pills are comparable to systemic antibiotics for acne management at six months, according to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

“Both antibiotics and oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) have been found to be effective in managing acne vulgaris,” wrote Eubee Baughn Koo, of Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues. “Despite widespread use, few direct comparisons of efficacy between the two modalities have been published.”

To compare the efficacy of antibiotics and OCPs in managing acne, the investigators conducted a systematic literature review of 32 randomized controlled trials.

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Both antibiotics and OCPs effected greater percent reduction in inflammatory, noninflammatory, and total lesions compared with placebo at three and six months, found the inspectors. 

The two treatments achieved similar results at each time point, except that antibiotics were superior to OCPs in percent reduction of total lesions at three months (weighted mean total lesion reduction: three-month course of oral antibiotic treatment, OCPs, and placebo, 48.0%, 37.3%, and 26.4%, respectively; six-month course, 52.8%, 55.0% and 28.6%, respectively).

“Although antibiotics may be superior at three months, OCPs are equivalent to antibiotics at six months in reducing acne lesions and, thus, may be a better first-line alternative to systemic antibiotics for long-term acne management in women,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Koo E et al. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2014; doi: