Hyperkalemia in women with acne exposed to oral spironolactone: A retrospective study from the RADAR (Research on Adverse Drug Events and Reports) program

Int J Womens Dermatol. 2019 Apr 25;5(3):155-157. doi: 10.1016/j.ijwd.2019.04.024. eCollection 2019 Jul.


Purpose: The necessity of serum potassium monitoring for healthy women who are prescribed spironolactone for acne has been debated. The aim of this study was to compare the incidence of hyperkalemia in women 18 to 45 years of age to that in women 46 to 65 years of age, when treated with oral spironolactone for acne.

Methods and materials: Data for all women 18 to 65 years of age who were prescribed oral spironolactone by a dermatologist for acne between January 2006 and October 2016 were extracted for analysis. Retrospective data were included for women who exhibited baseline serum potassium within the normal limits and who had repeat serum potassium monitoring within 12 months after initiation of spironolactone. The rate of incident hyperkalemia was determined.

Results: Of 618 women who received spironolactone for acne, 133 had serum potassium monitoring both before and after spironolactone initiation. Nine were excluded due to confounding comorbidities. Of the remaining 124 women, the mean age at initiation of spironolactone was 32 years (range, 18-57 years); 112 women were in the 18 to 45 years age group, and 12 were in the 46 to 65 years age group. All women had serum potassium within normal limits at baseline. Women in the 46 to 65 years age group had a significantly higher rate of incident hyperkalemia after spironolactone initiation compared with women 18 to 45 years of age (2 of 12 women [16.7%] vs. 1 of 112 women [< 1%]; p = .0245).

Conclusions: Although controversy surrounds the clinical utility of serum potassium monitoring in healthy women exposed to spironolactone for acne, based on the findings from this large patient population, monitoring of serum potassium is warranted for women over 45 years of age given an age-related greater risk of hyperkalemia.

Keywords: Spironolactone; acne; female; hyperkalemia; potassium.