Pharmacology Skin Meds #2


Which medication(s) is/are approved for treatment of acne vulgaris? Select all that apply.


  1. Oral antibiotics (tetracycline)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because acne vulgaris treatment includes topical antibiotics (erythromycin). Improvement of lesions occurs slowly, up to 6 months. Once acne is controlled, a topical antibiotic may be used for continued control.

  2. Topical antibiotics (erythromycin)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because topical antibiotics such as erythromycin or combination antibiotics are used to help control acne vulgaris. This type treatment is often used after control has been established by oral antibiotics. Topical treatments carry less side effects than systemic treatments.

  3. Systemic medications (methotrexate)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because systemic medications, such as methotrexate are not used for treatment of acne vulgaris. Due to the extreme toxicity of this medication to body cells and teratogenic nature of the medication, this is a treatment reserved for more serious medical conditions and skin conditions, such as psoriasis untreatable by less toxic methods.

  4. Oral contraceptives (ortho tri-cycline)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because hormonal medications, such as oral contraceptive are utilized to help control acne in the female client. This medication decreases androgen activity in the body, therefore decreasing sebum production.

  5. Systemic biological medications (adalimumab)
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because systemic biological medications, such as adalimumab, normally treats psoriasis or other autoimmune disorders. Due to its toxicity to the body, it is used only when other methods are ineffective.


Acne vulgaris is a chronic skin condition commonly seen in puberty. Treatment is generally needed until it resolves. Various treatments for acne vulgaris are available, including both oral and topical antibiotics. Hormonal medications, such as oral contraceptives, are also effective in females.


Learning Outcomes

Acne vulgaris treatment includes topical antibiotics, topical retinoids, oral medications, and hormonal medications. Oral medications, including antibiotics (tetracycline), topical retinoids (tretinoin), oral contraceptives (ortho tri-cycline), and topical medications (erythromycin and isotretinoin). Some medications have more side effects than others but treatment depends on the severity of the lesions and the balance of risk and effectiveness of treatment.

Test Taking Tip

Key words, such as “systemic”, should remind the student that a medication is more invasive and carries more potential for side effects.

Video Rationale