skip to main content
NZ Formulary

Printable Printable large type (2 pages) A4 Size PDF A5 Size PDF

Isotretinoin (capsule)


What does it do?

Isotretinoin is used to treat acne.

How should you take it?

Take isotretinoin regularly as directed. Take it with food and a glass of water.

What if you forget a dose?

If it is nearly time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time. Otherwise, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Do not take two doses at the same time.

Can you take other medicines?

Some medicines available without a prescription may react with isotretinoin including:

  • preparations containing Vitamin A (e.g. Centrum®)

Tell your pharmacist or doctor about all medicines or treatments that you may be taking, including vitamins, herbal products (e.g. St John's wort) or recreational drugs.

What side effects might you notice?

Side EffectsRecommended action

Low mood, unusual behaviour or thinking

Headache, changes in vision, pounding in one or both ears (may be intracranial hypertension)

Tell your doctor immediately

Dry or irritated lips, mouth, nose or eyes

Dry or fragile skin

Nose bleeds

More sensitive to sunlight (sunburn or rash)

Joint, muscle or bone aches and pains

Tell your doctor if troublesome

If you notice any other effects, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Other information:

  • Isotretinoin must not be used if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breast-feeding because of a high risk of abnormalities in the developing baby. It is very important to wait at least 1 month after stopping isotretinoin before trying to get pregnant.
  • Adequate contraception is essential while on this medicine. The effectiveness of some oral contraceptive pills may be affected by isotretinoin. Discuss with your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor if you have liver problems, high cholesterol or a mental health problem.
  • Acne may worsen at the beginning of treatment.
  • Protect yourself from too much sunlight while being treated with isotretinoin. Always cover up and apply a thick layer of broad spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 30) when outside. Do not use sunbeds.
  • Isotretinoin can make your skin fragile, so avoid skin treatments such as wax hair removal, dermabrasion or laser skin treatments while using it. This may continue for 3 to 6 months after stopping isotretinoin, so make sure your skin is no longer dry or sensitive before having skin treatments.
  • Isotretinoin may decrease night vision. Take care when driving at night.
  • Do not donate blood while taking isotretinoin and for 1 month after stopping it.

This leaflet contains important, but not all, information about this medicine.

Prepared by the PILs Committee at Christchurch Hospital, Canterbury District Health Board, New Zealand. May 2019

For more general information about this sheet annd its contents, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

Web links for this sheet in different formats

Click on buttons to copy web addresses for this leaflet:

If your browser does not automatically copy these links use its copy command instead.

About My Medicines

My Medicines Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) contain important, but not all, information about the medicines they describe.

For more information about the sheets, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

My Medicines is developed by a team at the Canterbury District Health Board. Our team is made up of doctors, pharmacists, and a non-medical person to help us keep to plain language. We also discuss our information with specialist health professionals or groups when needed