Treatment of preadolescent acne in the United States: an analysis of nationally representative data

Pediatr Dermatol. 2013 Nov-Dec;30(6):689-94. doi: 10.1111/pde.12201. Epub 2013 Jul 22.


The prevalence of acne in younger children is increasing. Of the acne treatments that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for ages 12 years and older, it is unclear which medications are being prescribed off-label for this younger patient population. The purpose of this study is to compare the therapies being prescribed to preadolescent patients with acne (defined in this study as ages 7 to 11 years) with those being prescribed to adolescent patients (ages 12 to 18 years) and to determine whether prescribing patterns differ between dermatologists and pediatricians. Leading therapies for the treatment of children with a diagnosis of acne were collected from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) from 1993 to 2009. Data were stratified according to age group and physician specialty. Physicians prescribed a wide variety of FDA-approved and off-label medications to preadolescent patients with acne. The leading medications were topical treatments, including adapalene (14.4%), benzoyl peroxide (12.8%), and tretinoin (12.5%). Treatment of this age group differed substantially between specialties, with dermatologists frequently prescribing topical retinoids and primary care physicians preferring antibiotics, particularly oral antibiotics. Limitations included a lack of data on acne severity and morphology through NAMCS, as well as the absence of longitudinal data. With the limited number of FDA-approved treatment options, off-label prescribing for acne in preadolescent patients is common. Furthermore, this study identified a potential knowledge gap between pediatricians based on their prescribing patterns in this patient population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Acne Vulgaris / epidemiology*
  • Adapalene
  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Age of Onset
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzoyl Peroxide / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Dermatology / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Keratolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Naphthalenes / therapeutic use*
  • Off-Label Use / statistics & numerical data
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Keratolytic Agents
  • Naphthalenes
  • Adapalene
  • Tretinoin
  • Benzoyl Peroxide