Drug Survival of Oral Retinoids in Hidradenitis Suppurativa: A Real-Life Cohort Study

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2022 Nov;23(6):905-914. doi: 10.1007/s40257-022-00725-9. Epub 2022 Sep 7.


Introduction: Cohort studies on the use of retinoids for hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) have yielded contradicting results. As the clinical presentation of HS is heterogeneous, with different predilection sites and hallmark features, it can be hypothesized that HS phenotypes are associated with the effectiveness of specific retinoid treatments.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate the drug survival of oral retinoids in the treatment of HS and to establish predictors for longer treatment duration.

Methods: A retrospective, dual-center study was conducted in the Netherlands in adult HS patients treated with oral retinoids between 2011 and 2021. Drug survival analyses were performed through Kaplan-Meier survival curves. Additionally, Cox regression models were used to determine predictors for a longer drug survival.

Results: In total, 102 patients were included. Overall drug survival of (low-dose) isotretinoin (n = 66) at 12 and 24 months was 44.2% and 15.5%, respectively. Termination of treatment was mostly due to ineffectiveness (26%). Presence of widespread comedones (p = 0.03) and the use of concomitant systemic medication (p = 0.04) were associated with a prolonged treatment duration. For acitretin (n = 36), the overall drug survival was 42.0% at 12 months and 37.4% at 24 months, and was also predominantly determined by ineffectiveness (28%). Interestingly, the scarring folliculitis phenotype (p < 0.05) was associated with prolonged drug survival time for acitretin treatment relative to the regular phenotype.

Conclusion: Comparable drug survival rates at 12 months for isotretinoin and acitretin were found. HS patients with widespread comedones and the scarring folliculitis phenotype could benefit from treatment with isotretinoin or acitretin, respectively.

MeSH terms

  • Acitretin / therapeutic use
  • Acne Vulgaris* / drug therapy
  • Cicatrix / drug therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Folliculitis* / complications
  • Folliculitis* / drug therapy
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa* / complications
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Isotretinoin / therapeutic use
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Retinoids
  • Isotretinoin
  • Acitretin