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Isotretinoin structure.svg


Title: Isotretinoin

CAS Registry Number: 4759-48-2
CAS Name: 13-cis-Retinoic acid

Additional Names: 2-cis-vitamin A acid; neovitamin A acid

Manufacturers’ Codes: Ro-4-3780Trademarks: Accutane (Roche); Isotrex (Stiefel); Oratane (Douglas); Roaccutane (Roche)
Molecular Formula: C20H28O2Molecular Weight: 300.44Percent Composition: C 79.95%, H 9.39%, O 10.65%
Literature References: Naturally occurring metabolite of vitamin A, q.v.; inhibits sebum production. Prepn: C. D. Robeson et al.,J. Am. Chem. Soc.77, 4111 (1955). Stereoselective process: R. Lucci, EP111325idem,US4556518 (1984, 1985 both to Hoffmann-La Roche). Toxicology and teratogenicity study: J. J. Kamm, J. Am. Acad. Dermatol.6, 652 (1982). Identification as endogenous metabolite of all-trans-retinoic acid: M. E. Cullum, M. H. Zile, J. Biol. Chem.260, 10590 (1985). HPLC determn in serum: G. Tang, R. M. Russell, J. Lipid Res.31, 175 (1990). Review of pharmacology and clinical efficacy in acne: A. R. Shalita et al.,Cutis42, Suppl. 6A, 1-19 (1988). Symposium on clinical experience: Dermatology195, Suppl. 1, 1-37 (1997).
Properties: Reddish-orange plates from isopropyl alcohol, mp 174-175°. uv max: 354 nm (e 39800). LD50 (20 day) in mice, rats (mg/kg): 904, 901 i.p.; 3389, >4000 orally (Kamm).

Melting point: mp 174-175°Absorption maximum: uv max: 354 nm (e 39800)Toxicity data: LD50 (20 day) in mice, rats (mg/kg): 904, 901 i.p.; 3389, >4000 orally (Kamm)Therap-Cat: Antiacne.Keywords: Antiacne.

Isotretinoin, also known as 13-cis-retinoic acid and sold under the brand name Accutane among others, is a medication primarily used to treat severe acne. It is also used to prevent certain skin cancers (squamous-cell carcinoma), and in the treatment of other cancers. It is used to treat harlequin-type ichthyosis, a usually lethal skin disease, and lamellar ichthyosis. It is a retinoid, meaning it is related to vitamin A, and is found in small quantities naturally in the body. Its isomertretinoin, is also an acne drug.

The most common adverse effects are a transient worsening of acne (lasting 1–4 months), dry lips (cheilitis), dry and fragile skin, and an increased susceptibility to sunburn. Uncommon and rare side effects include muscle aches and pains (myalgias), and headaches. Isotretinoin is known to cause birth defects due to in-utero exposure because of the molecule’s close resemblance to retinoic acid, a natural vitamin A derivative which controls normal embryonic development. It is also associated with psychiatric side effects, most commonly depression but also, more rarely, psychosis and unusual behaviours. Other rare side effects include hyperostosis, and premature epiphyseal closure, have been reported to be persistent.

In the United States, a special procedure is required to obtain the pharmaceutical. In most other countries, a consent form is required which explains these risks. In other countries, such as Israel, it is prescribed like any other medicine from a dermatologist (after proper blood tests).

Women taking isotretinoin must not get pregnant during and for one month after the discontinuation of isotretinoin therapy. Sexual abstinence or effective contraception is mandatory during this period. Barrier methods by themselves (e.g., condoms) are not considered adequate due to the unacceptable failure rates of approximately 3%. Women who become pregnant while taking isotretinoin therapy are generally counseled to have an abortion.

It was patented in 1969 and approved for medical use in 1982.[2] It sold well, but in 2009, Roche decided to discontinue manufacturing due to diminishing market share due to the availability of the many generic versions and the settling of multiple lawsuits over side effects. It continues to be manufactured as of 2019 by Absorica, Amnesteem, Claravis, Myorisan, Sotret, and Zenatane.[3]

Medical uses

Isotretinoin is used primarily for severe cystic acne and acne that has not responded to other treatments.[4][5][6][7] Many dermatologists also support its use for treatment of lesser degrees of acne that prove resistant to other treatments, or that produce physical or psychological scarring.[8] Isotretinoin is not indicated for treatment of prepubertal acne and is not recommended in children less than 12 years of age.[9]

It is also somewhat effective for hidradenitis suppurativa and some cases of severe rosacea.[10] It can also be used to help treat harlequin ichthyosis, lamellar ichthyosis and is used in xeroderma pigmentosum cases to relieve keratoses. Isotretinoin has been used to treat the extremely rare condition fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. It is also used for treatment of neuroblastoma, a form of nerve cancer.

Isotretinoin therapy has furthermore proven effective against genital warts in experimental use, but is rarely used for this indication as there are more effective treatments. Isotretinoin may represent an efficacious and safe alternative systemic form of therapy for recalcitrant condylomata acuminata (RCA) of the cervix. In most countries this therapy is currently unapproved and only used if other therapies failed.[11][12]

Prescribing restrictions

Isotretinoin is a teratogen; there is about a 20–35% risk for congenital defects in infants exposed to the drug in utero, and about 30–60% of children exposed to isotretinoin prenatally have been reported to show neurocognitive impairment.[13] Because of this, there are strict controls on prescribing isotretinoin to women who may become pregnant and women who become pregnant while taking isotretinoin are strongly advised to terminate their pregnancies.[13]

In most countries, isotretinoin can only be prescribed by dermatologists or specialist physicians; some countries also allow limited prescription by general practitioners and family doctors. In the United Kingdom[14] and Australia,[15][16] isotretinoin may be prescribed only by or under the supervision of a consultant dermatologist. Because severe cystic acne has the potential to cause permanent scarring over a short period, restrictions on its more immediate availability have proved contentious.[17] In New Zealand, isotretinoin can be prescribed by any doctor but subsidised only when prescribed by a vocationally-registered general practitioner, dermatologist or nurse practitioner.[18]

In the United States, since March 2006 the dispensing of isotretinoin is run through a website called iPLEDGE. The FDA required the companies marketing the drug in the US, which at the time that iPLEDGE was launched were Roche, Mylan, Barr, and Ranbaxy, to put this website in place as a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy. These companies formed a group called the Isotretinoin Products Manufacturing Group, and it hired Covance to run the website.[19][20] Prescribers, pharmacists, and all people to whom the drug is prescribed need to register on the site and log information into it. Women with child-bearing potential must commit to using two forms of effective contraception simultaneously for the duration of isotretinoin therapy and for a month immediately preceding and a month immediately following therapy. Additionally they must have two negative pregnancy tests 30 days apart and have negative pregnancy tests before each prescription is written.[21][22]


The compound 13-cis retinoic acid was first studied in the 1960s at Roche Laboratories in Switzerland by Werner Bollag as a treatment for skin cancer. Experiments completed in 1971 showed that the compound was likely to be ineffective for cancer and, surprisingly, that it could be useful to treat acne. However, they also showed that the compound was likely to cause birth defects, so in light of the events around thalidomide, Roche abandoned the product. In 1975, Gary Peck and Frank Yoder independently rediscovered the drug’s use as a treatment of cystic acne while studying it as a treatment for lamellar ichthyosis, and published that work. Roche resumed work on the drug. In clinical trials, subjects were carefully screened to avoid including women who were or might become pregnant. Roche’s New Drug Application for isotretinoin for the treatment of acne included data showing that the drug caused birth defects in rabbits. The FDA approved the application in 1982.

Scientists involved in the clinical trials published articles warning of birth defects at the same time the drug was launched in the US, but nonetheless isotretinoin was taken up quickly and widely, both among dermatologists and general practitioners. Cases of birth defects showed up in the first year, leading the FDA to begin publishing case reports and to Roche sending warning letters to doctors and placing warning stickers on drug bottles, and including stronger warnings on the label. Lawsuits against Roche started to be filed. In 1983 the FDA’s advisory committee was convened and recommended stronger measures, which the FDA took and were that time unprecedented: warning blood banks not to accept blood from people taking the drug, and adding a warning to the label advising women to start taking contraceptives a month before starting the drug. However use of the drug continued to grow, as did the number of babies born with birth defects. In 1985 the label was updated to include a boxed warning. In early 1988 the FDA called for another advisory committee, and FDA employees prepared an internal memo estimating that around 1,000 babies had been born with birth defects due to isotretinoin, that up to around 1,000 miscarriages had been caused, and that between 5,000 and 7,000 women had had abortions due to isotretinoin. The memo was leaked to the New York Times[77] a few days before the meeting, leading to a storm of media attention. In the committee meeting, dermatologists and Roche each argued to keep the drug on the market but to increase education efforts; pediatricians and the CDC argued to withdraw the drug from the market. The committee recommended to restrict physicians who could prescribe the drug and to require a second opinion before it could be prescribed. The FDA, believing it did not have authority under the law to restrict who had the right to prescribe the drug, kept the drug on the market but took further unprecedented measures: it required to Roche to make warnings yet more visible and graphic, provide doctors with informed consent forms to be used when prescribing the drug, and to conduct follow up studies to test whether the measures were reducing exposure of pregnant women to the drug. Roche implemented those measures, and offered to pay for contraception counseling and pregnancy testing for women prescribed the drug; the program was called the “Pregnancy Prevention Program”.

A CDC report published in 2000[78] showed problems with the Pregnancy Prevention Program and showed that the increase in prescriptions was from off-label use, and prompted Roche to revamp its program, renaming it the “Targeted Pregnancy Prevention Program” and adding label changes like requirements for two pregnancy tests, two kinds of contraception, and for doctors to provide pharmacists with prescriptions directly; providing additional educational materials, and providing free pregnancy tests. The FDA had another advisory meeting in late 2000 that again debated how to prevent pregnant women from being exposed to the drug; dermatologists testified about the remarkable efficacy of the drug, the psychological impact of acne, and demanded autonomy to prescribe the drug; others argued that the drug be withdrawn or much stricter measures be taken. In 2001 the FDA announced a new regulatory scheme called SMART (the System to Manage Accutane Related Teratogenicity) that required Roche to provide defined training materials to doctors, and for doctors to sign and return a letter to Roche acknowledging that they had reviewed the training materials, for Roche to then send stickers to doctors, which doctors would have to place on prescriptions they give people after they have confirmed a negative pregnancy test; prescriptions could only be written for 30 days and could not be renewed, thus requiring a new pregnancy test for each prescription.[citation needed]

In February 2002, Roche’s patents for isotretinoin expired, and there are now many other companies selling cheaper generic versions of the drug. On June 29, 2009, Roche Pharmaceuticals, the original creator and distributor of isotretinoin, officially discontinued both the manufacture and distribution of their Accutane brand in the United States due to what the company described as business reasons related to low market share (below 5%), coupled with the high cost of defending personal-injury lawsuits brought by some people who took the drug.[79] Generic isotretinoin will remain available in the United States through various manufacturers. Roche USA continues to defend Accutane and claims to have treated over 13 million people since its introduction in 1982. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. apparently will continue to manufacture and distribute Roaccutane outside of the United States.[80]

Among others, actor James Marshall sued Roche over allegedly Accutane-related disease that resulted in removal of his colon.[81] The jury, however, decided that James Marshall had a pre-existing bowel disease.[82]

Several trials over inflammatory bowel disease claims have been held in the United States thus far, with many of them resulting in multimillion-dollar judgments against the makers of isotretinoin.[83]

Society and culture


As of 2017 isotretinoin was marketed under many brand names worldwide: A-Cnotren, Absorica, Accuran, Accutane, Accutin, Acne Free, Acnecutan, Acnegen, Acnemin, Acneone, Acneral, Acnestar, Acnetane, Acnetin A, Acnetrait, Acnetrex, Acnogen, Acnotin, Acnotren, Acretin, Actaven, Acugen, Acutret, Acutrex, Ai Si Jie, Aisoskin, Aknal, Aknefug Iso, Aknenormin, Aknesil, Aknetrent, Amnesteem, Atlacne, Atretin, Axotret, Casius, Ciscutan, Claravis, Contracné, Curacne, Curacné, Curakne, Curatane, Cuticilin, Decutan, Dercutane, Effederm, Epuris, Eudyna, Farmacne, Flexresan, Flitrion, I-Ret, Inerta, Inflader, Inotrin, Isac, Isdiben, Isoacne, Isobest, Isocural, Isoderm, Isoface, IsoGalen, Isogeril, Isolve, Isoprotil, Isoriac, Isosupra, Isosupra Lidose, Isotane, Isotina, Isotinon, Isotren, Isotret, Isotretinoin, Isotretinoina, Isotretinoína, Isotretinoine, Isotretinoïne, Isotrétinoïne, Isotretinoinum, Isotrex, Isotrin, Isotroin, Izotek, Izotziaja, Lisacne, Locatret, Mayesta, Myorisan, Neotrex, Netlook, Nimegen, Noitron, Noroseptan, Novacne, Oralne, Oraret, Oratane, Piplex, Policano, Procuta, Reducar, Retin A, Roaccutan, Roaccutane, Roacnetan, Roacta, Roacutan, Rocne, Rocta, Sotret, Stiefotrex, Tai Er Si, Teweisi, Tretin, Tretinac, Tretinex, Tretiva, Tufacne, Zenatane, Zerocutan, Zonatian ME, and Zoretanin.[1]

As of 2017 it was marketed as a topical combination drug with erythromycin under the brand names Isotrex Eritromicina, Isotrexin, and Munderm.[1]


While excessive bone growth has been raised a possible side effect, a 2006 review found little evidence for this.[84]


File:Isotretinoin synthesis.svg

C. D. Robeson et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 77, 4111 (1955). Stereoselective process: R. Lucci, EP 111325; idem, US 4556518 (1984, 1985 both to Hoffmann-La Roche). doi:10.1021/jo00349a001.


J Chem Soc 1968,(16),1982-83

The reaction of vinyl-beta-ionol (I) with triphenylphosphonium bromide (II) in ethanol gives the corresponding phosphonium salt (III), which is condensed through a Wittig reaction with cis-beta-formylcrotonic acid (IV) by means of sodium ethoxide in ethanol to afford a mixture of cis-2-cis-4-vitamin A acid (V) and the desired product. Finally, compound (V) is isomerized bv irradiation with diffuse light in ether in the presence of iodine.


Tetrahedron 2000,56(37),7211

The formylation of the beta-ionone (I) with methyl formate and NaOMe gives the enol (II), which by reaction with methanol and H2SO4 yields the dimethylacetal (III). The reaction of (III) with methylenetriphenylphosphorane (IV) affords the methylene compound (V), which is treated with formic acid to provide the aldehyde (VI). The condensation of (VI) with isopropylidenemalonic acid dimethyl ester (VII) by means of NaOH gives the polyenic malonic acid (VIII) as a mixture of isomers that is separated by crystallization in ethyl ether to yield the desired all-trans-isomer (IX). Finally, this malonic acid is selectively monodecarboxylated by means of refluxing 2,6-dimethylpyridine to afford the target (E,E,E,Z)-isomer.


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External links

Clinical data
PronunciationSee note at tretinoin
Trade namesAccutane, Roaccutane, others[1]
License dataUS FDAIsotretinoin
AU: X (High risk)US: X (Contraindicated)
Routes of
By mouthtopical
ATC codeD10AD04 (WHO)
Legal status
Legal statusAU: S4 (Prescription only)CA℞-onlyUK: POM (Prescription only)US: ℞-onlyIn general: ℞ (Prescription only)
Pharmacokinetic data
Protein binding99.9%
Elimination half-life10–20 hours
ExcretionKidney and fecal
IUPAC name[show]
CAS Number4759-48-2 
PubChem CID5282379
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)DTXSID4023177 
ECHA InfoCard100.022.996 
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass300.442 g·mol−1
3D model (JSmol)Interactive image
InChI[hide]InChI=1S/C20H28O2/c1-15(8-6-9-16(2)14-19(21)22)11-12-18-17(3)10-7-13-20(18,4)5/h6,8-9,11-12,14H,7,10,13H2,1-5H3,(H,21,22)/b9-6+,12-11+,15-8+,16-14- Key:SHGAZHPCJJPHSC-XFYACQKRSA-N 

////////////Antiacne, 13-cis-Retinoic acid, 2-cis-vitamin A acid,  neovitamin A acid, Isotretinoin




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DR ANTHONY MELVIN CRASTO, Born in Mumbai in 1964 and graduated from Mumbai University, Completed his Ph.D from ICT, 1991,Matunga, Mumbai, India, in Organic Chemistry, The thesis topic was Synthesis of Novel Pyrethroid Analogues, Currently he is working with AFRICURE PHARMA, ROW2TECH, NIPER-G, Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Govt. of India as ADVISOR, earlier assignment was with GLENMARK LIFE SCIENCES LTD, as CONSUlTANT, Retired from GLENMARK in Jan2022 Research Centre as Principal Scientist, Process Research (bulk actives) at Mahape, Navi Mumbai, India. Total Industry exp 32 plus yrs, Prior to joining Glenmark, he has worked with major multinationals like Hoechst Marion Roussel, now Sanofi, Searle India Ltd, now RPG lifesciences, etc. He has worked with notable scientists like Dr K Nagarajan, Dr Ralph Stapel, Prof S Seshadri, etc, He did custom synthesis for major multinationals in his career like BASF, Novartis, Sanofi, etc., He has worked in Discovery, Natural products, Bulk drugs, Generics, Intermediates, Fine chemicals, Neutraceuticals, GMP, Scaleups, etc, he is now helping millions, has 9 million plus hits on Google on all Organic chemistry websites. His friends call him Open superstar worlddrugtracker. His New Drug Approvals, Green Chemistry International, All about drugs, Eurekamoments, Organic spectroscopy international, etc in organic chemistry are some most read blogs He has hands on experience in initiation and developing novel routes for drug molecules and implementation them on commercial scale over a 32 PLUS year tenure till date Feb 2023, Around 35 plus products in his career. He has good knowledge of IPM, GMP, Regulatory aspects, he has several International patents published worldwide . He has good proficiency in Technology transfer, Spectroscopy, Stereochemistry, Synthesis, Polymorphism etc., He suffered a paralytic stroke/ Acute Transverse mylitis in Dec 2007 and is 90 %Paralysed, He is bound to a wheelchair, this seems to have injected feul in him to help chemists all around the world, he is more active than before and is pushing boundaries, He has 100 million plus hits on Google, 2.5 lakh plus connections on all networking sites, 100 Lakh plus views on dozen plus blogs, 227 countries, 7 continents, He makes himself available to all, contact him on +91 9323115463, email, Twitter, @amcrasto , He lives and will die for his family, 90% paralysis cannot kill his soul., Notably he has 38 lakh plus views on New Drug Approvals Blog in 227 countries...... , He appreciates the help he gets from one and all, Friends, Family, Glenmark, Readers, Wellwishers, Doctors, Drug authorities, His Contacts, Physiotherapist, etc He has total of 32 International and Indian awards

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