Oral isotretinoin therapy in severe acne induces transient suppression of biochemical markers of bone turnover and calcium homeostasis

Acta Derm Venereol. 1998 Jul;78(4):266-9. doi: 10.1080/000155598441837.


Although dietary vitamin A is required for normal growth and development, long-term or high-dose administration of vitamin A derivatives (retinoids) may produce a variety of skeletal side-effects in man. In this study we investigated the early effects of oral isotretinoin therapy on bone turnover and calcium homeostasis in eleven consecutive patients with nodulocystic acne. The effects on bone metabolism were correlated to radiological and bone mineral density measurements following drug therapy for six months. Markers of bone turnover, i.e. serum osteocalcin, the carboxyterminal propeptide of type I collagen, bone specific alkaline phosphatase, the carboxyterminal telopeptide of type I collagen, and urine levels of calcium and hydroxyproline decreased significantly within five days of treatment (p < 0.05). There was also a statistically significant decrease in serum calcium, with a minimum on day five, and a marked increase in serum parathyroid hormone (p < 0.05). With continued treatment, however, the abnormal levels of these markers returned to baseline values within 14 days. No significant roentgenological changes or effects on bone mineral density were found in response to the drug. The observed inhibitory effects of isotretinoin on bone turnover, despite elevated parathyroid hormone levels, indicates that the drug exerts a direct effect on bone tissue.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Acne Vulgaris / physiopathology
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Isotretinoin / adverse effects*
  • Isotretinoin / therapeutic use
  • Keratolytic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Keratolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Biomarkers
  • Keratolytic Agents
  • Isotretinoin
  • Calcium