Objective: The goal of this review was to summarize the available literature covering the safety profiles of oral doxycycline and minocycline.
Methods: Scientific literature published between 1966 and August 2003 was searched using the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Biosis databases (search terms: minocycline or doxycycline, each paired with adverse reaction, adverse event, and side effect, and doxycycline or minocycline with the limits English language, human, and clinical trials). Safety information was collected from case reports and clinical trials. Adverse event (AE) rates in the United States were calculated by comparing data from the MedWatch AE reporting program used by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the number of new prescriptions dispensed for each drug from January 1998 to August 2003.
Results: Between 1966 and 2003, a total of 130 and 333 AEs were published in case reports of doxycycline and minocycline, respectively. In 24 doxycycline clinical trials (n = 3833) and 11 minocycline trials (n = 788), the ranges in incidence of AEs were 0% to 61% and 11.7% to 83.3%, respectively. Gastrointestinal AEs were most common with doxycycline; central nervous system and gastrointestinal AEs were most common with minocycline. From January 1998 to August 2003, the FDA MedWatch data contained 628 events for doxycycline and 1099 events for minocycline reported in the United States. Approximately 47,630,000 doxycycline and 15,234,000 minocycline new prescriptions were dispensed in the United States during that period, yielding event rates of 13 per million for doxycycline and 72 per million for minocycline, based on FDA data.
Conclusions: Between 1998 and 2003, doxycycline was prescribed 3 times as often as minocycline. The incidence of AEs with either drug is very low, but doxycycline had fewer reported AEs. Although more head-to-head clinical trials are needed for a direct comparison of AE frequency, these preliminary data from separate reports suggest the possibility that AEs may be less likely with doxycycline than minocycline.