Prescriptive contraceptive use among isotretinoin users in the Netherlands in comparison with non-users: a drug utilisation study


  • No ethical approval was necessary for this study.

H. Crijns, Medicines Evaluation Board, Kalvermarkt 53, 2511 CB, The Hague, the Netherlands. E-mail:



To assess the compliance with the isotretinoin Pregnancy Prevention Programme (PPP) by evaluating the use of prescribed contraceptives among isotretinoin users. The PPP contains a requirement for the use of contraceptive methods for women of childbearing potential.


A drug utilisation study was performed using data from a drug prescription database (containing Dutch community pharmacy data) covering a population of 500 000 patients. Contraceptive use in female isotretinoin users and in a reference group of female non-isotretinoin users (aged 15–49 years) was compared using data from 1999 until 2006 in 2-year periods. Descriptive statistics were used.


Of the female isotretinoin users (n = 651), 52%–54% filled prescriptions on contraceptives in strict accordance to the PPP, used before, during, and after discontinuation of isotretinoin, compared with 39%–46% in the reference group. A more liberal approach of a minimum of one prescription for a contraceptive method showed 61%–64% use of contraceptives among isotretinoin users. Similar patterns were seen when data were broken down in age groups. Furthermore, a higher proportion of female patients using isotretinoin prescribed by general practitioners used prescribed contraceptives compared with those receiving isotretinoin by specialists.


Compliance with the contraceptive use according to a PPP for a teratogenic drug such as isotretinoin is 52%–64%, which is lower than anticipated. Reasons for the low compliance will need to be clarified before further measures can be taken. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.