To evaluate the efficacy of a triphasic, combination oral contraceptive (OC), (norgestimate-ethinyl estradiol), in comparison with placebo in the treatment of moderate acne vulgaris.
Two hundred fifty women were enrolled in a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of norgestimate-ethinyl estradiol in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Subjects were 15-49 years old and had moderate acne vulgaris. Each month for 6 months, subjects received either 3 consecutive weeks of active OC treatment followed by 1 week of inactive drug, or 4 consecutive weeks of color-matched placebo tablets. Efficacy was assessed by facial acne lesion counts, the investigator's global assessment, and the subject's self-assessment. Hormone levels were also measured.
Despite the large placebo effect inherent in an acne trial (due to, for example, careful skin care, frequent office visits, regression to the mean), of the 164 subjects who completed the study without major protocol deviations, the OC group was significantly better than the placebo group for all primary efficacy measures: inflammatory lesions (mean reduction, 51.4% compared to 34.6%; P = .01), total lesions (mean reduction, 46.4% compared to 33.9%; P = .001); investigator's global assessment (83.3% compared to 62.5%; P = .001). Free testosterone decreased significantly and sex hormone-binding globulin increased significantly in the OC group, but remained unchanged in the placebo group.
A triphasic combination of norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol is an effective treatment for moderate acne vulgaris in women with no known contraindication to OC therapy.