The effect of isotretinoin on triglycerides and liver aminotransferases

An Bras Dermatol. 2012 May-Jun;87(3):382-7. doi: 10.1590/s0365-05962012000300005.


Background: Isotretinoin has been used to treat the most severe cases of acne; however, it may provoke adverse events in mucocutaneous and hepatic tissues, lead to alterations in lipid levels and cause teratogenicity.

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the profile of changes in alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and triglyceride levels in patients who had been treated with oral isotretinoin dispensed by the São Mateus/ES pharmacy for special drugs.

Methods: A retrospective, observational, longitudinal study was conducted by carrying out a secondary analysis of each patient's data.

Results: Of the 130 patients who received isotretinoin between January and December 2009, only 70 were actually treated for 3 months or more and handed in the results of their laboratory tests. Of these 70 patients, 39 (55.7%) were female. The mean age of the women (23.9 years) was higher than the mean age of the men (20.1 years). There was a statistically significant increase in the levels of triglycerides (87.01 ± 48.25 versus 105.32 ± 48.76 mg/dL), AST (20.44 ± 6.26 versus 24.38 ± 11.92 U/L) and ALT (18.24 ± 8.31 versus 23.34 ± 20.03 U/L) performed prior to and 3 months or more after oral isotretinoin treatment. After treatment with oral isotretinoin, triglyceride levels had increased beyond the normal range in 11% of the patients, while 8.6% had elevated AST levels and 7.3% had increased ALT levels.

Conclusion: The results in this population show that the use of oral isotretinoin for the treatment of acne may result in altered triglyceride, AST and ALT levels. These findings are in accordance with data published previously in the scientific literature, confirming the need to monitor these patients.

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / blood
  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood*
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood*
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isotretinoin / administration & dosage
  • Isotretinoin / adverse effects*
  • Isotretinoin / therapeutic use
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Triglycerides / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Triglycerides
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Isotretinoin