Antibiotic Drugs for Acne Linked to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Study

A new study suggests that the use of antibiotics to treat acne may play a role in the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) from Accutane.  

According to a study published online by the American Journal of Gastroenterology on August 10, many individuals who used Accutane to treat severe acne and later developed severe bowel problems first tried to fight their acne with antibiotics from the oral tetracycline class. Researchers say that there could be a link between antibiotic drugs for acne treatment and an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease. 

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania collected data from 94,000 U.K. teens who had acne from 1998 to 2006. They discovered that 207 developed IBD. Of those, 152 had been prescribed a tetracycline-based antibiotic; including doxycycline, minocycline and tetracycline. The most common form of IBD that appeared to be associated with the use of antibiotics was Crohn’s disease.

Did You Know?

Millions of Philips CPAP Machines Recalled

Philips DreamStation, CPAP and BiPAP machines sold in recent years may pose a risk of cancer, lung damage and other injuries.

Learn More

Accutane (isotretinoin) is a popular acne drug that has been used by more than 16 million people worldwide since it was first introduced in the early 1980s. Although Roche discontinued the name brand version of the drug in June 2009, a number of generic versions remain available under a number of names, such as Claravis, Sotret, Amnesteem and generic isotretinoin.

Roche currently faces nearly 1,000 Accutane lawsuits over inflammatory bowel disease, which involve allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately warn users about the risk of debilitating bowel problems from Accutane, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The company has lost all six Accutane bowel disease trials that have reached a jury so far, with verdicts totalling $56 million.

The latest study was backed by a generic manufacturer of Accutane, who also faces inflammatory bowel disease lawsuits over the acne drug. However, researchers say that the results do not clear Accutane of links to IBD, and say that more studies are needed.

The two major forms of IBD most associated with Accutane side effects are Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis causes ulcers, or open sores, to develop on the large intestine or colon, resulting in diarrhea that can eventually turn bloody.  Crohn’s disease affects all layers of the intestinal wall in the small and large intestines, as well as other digestive organs and can cause parts of the intestines to narrow, cause the formation of abnormal tunnels between digestive organs, and cause fissures in the anal skin. The ailment affects about 500,000 Americans and is believed to increase the risk of developing bowel cancer.

23 Comments

  • LaylaJanuary 31, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    I took Tetracycline for about 2 yrs in the 90s after taking it for about 8 months I developed horrible digestive issues. I went to specialist and no one could determine what was wrong even though I informed all Drs I was taking Tetracycline. I finally stopped the medication and gained some relief. Now 20 yrs later I’m having horrible digestive issues again.

  • LindsayMarch 31, 2021 at 7:51 am

    I was put on benzaclin in 2003 for acne. I was diagnosed with severe UC in 2004 and had my colon removed (full colectomy) . At the time, I wrote to Benzaclin and they threatened me with huge packets of information if I was going to sue. I was sick and overwhelmed. I lost so much weight when I had the colectomy bag (80 lbs and I’m 5’7) I had to take a leave for a year from college . I was being pre[Show More]I was put on benzaclin in 2003 for acne. I was diagnosed with severe UC in 2004 and had my colon removed (full colectomy) . At the time, I wrote to Benzaclin and they threatened me with huge packets of information if I was going to sue. I was sick and overwhelmed. I lost so much weight when I had the colectomy bag (80 lbs and I’m 5’7) I had to take a leave for a year from college . I was being prescribed by Walgreens my medicine for UC AND my Benzaclin bec I had no idea one could cause the other . The pharmacy should have caught this ! I’m now 39 and have dealt with SO many surgeries and hospital stays . GI issues do not run in our family, so I firmly believe this drug was to blame . Unfortunately it’s been way too long to do anything about it now, yet this drug is still on the market .

  • DanielleMarch 3, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    I was put on antibiotics for acne treatment in the the very early 90's (I can't remember if it was tetracycline or amoxicillin). I took them for about 4 years and have had terrible digestive issues ever since. It didn't stop there for me however. It was muscle pain, fatigue, foggy brain, skin irritation etc. I was never properly diagnosed with anything because in the very early 2000's noone was re[Show More]I was put on antibiotics for acne treatment in the the very early 90's (I can't remember if it was tetracycline or amoxicillin). I took them for about 4 years and have had terrible digestive issues ever since. It didn't stop there for me however. It was muscle pain, fatigue, foggy brain, skin irritation etc. I was never properly diagnosed with anything because in the very early 2000's noone was really talking about any of this doctors just looked at me like I was crazy. Upon my own research, I started on a Candida diet which helped a little and curbed some the symptoms. I have to stay on such a strict regime to even function as a normal person. So, 2 decades of careful diet and herbs and all kinds of money spent on expensive probiotics and alternative medicine. What I have since learned is that the antibiotics kill off the good and necessary bacteria in your gut and completely disrupt the natural biome. It in facet made my acne worse in the end because gut problems lead to an overloaded liver and a backed up lymphatic system.

  • KathleenAugust 29, 2018 at 11:26 am

    I am wondering if it is these medications or if the link is really with bad acne and Cronh’s. My daughter has tested positive for ASCA but has not been diagnosed with Crohn’s yet. Going to GI today. She has some symptoms but not all. She was on minocycline her about 6 months and isotretion for a few weeks but got pulled off because of bad liver enzymes. I would love to know the truth.

  • NickOctober 16, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    I took tetracycline on and off throughout my teenage years (age 16 - 20). I was diagnosed with Chrohn's Ileitis when I was 24 (in 2012). I am now 27. I've always thought the tetracycline may have had something to do with it! My brother who is 2 years younger than me never took tetracycline and does not have Chrohn's. Based on my personal experience, it seems like either the onset of Crohn's o[Show More]I took tetracycline on and off throughout my teenage years (age 16 - 20). I was diagnosed with Chrohn's Ileitis when I was 24 (in 2012). I am now 27. I've always thought the tetracycline may have had something to do with it! My brother who is 2 years younger than me never took tetracycline and does not have Chrohn's. Based on my personal experience, it seems like either the onset of Crohn's occurs shortly after taking tetracycline, but the disease takes a good year or more to really hit it's stride, or it takes a few years of having a screwed up microbiome before the onset of Chrohn's occurs. Since there are hundreds of thousands of people who take tetracycline and don't get Chrohn's, one can only assume that the combination of both the use of tetracycline and an abnormal immune response or some other factor is required to initiate the disease. I can't believe there isn't more litigation revolving around this and I certainly hope more studies are being conducted and that these studies are being funded by the right people.

  • JustinOctober 4, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I was on tetracycline on and off for most of my teenage years due to acne. In 2009 I was diagnosed with UC. In 2012 I had my colon and rectum removed and they built a j-pouch out of my small intestine. I'm not sure if I took Accutane, I was a teenager and just took what the Dermatologist told me to.

  • davidMay 27, 2015 at 7:35 am

    i took tetracycline off and on for over a year and am now on my second round of accutane. i cant realy complain im sure some of you have worse side effects but i just cant gain weight. i eat rediculous amounts of food but i feel my poor gut health stops me from absorbing nutrients

  • ShawnaMarch 18, 2014 at 2:27 am

    I took minocycline in 2005 for acne. In 2010 I was diagnosed with crohns disease.

  • TorsteinMarch 10, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    I had a treatment for Acne when I was 17 (1987) using some kind of antibiotics (do not know the name but might be able to find it) and within 6 months I i had developed mb crohn. I have allways thought of this connection as not random and googeled for the connection to find you. Crohn has more or less wrecked my life so I am not happy about the mwdical world to say the least.

  • JulieOctober 26, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    I took minocin (a tetracycline) for acne at age 16...I got a severe case of pacreatitus and was hospitalized for 10 days. I wonder now what else could be wrong.

  • EdOctober 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    No family history. I was but on tetracycline at youg age for acne. Aslo have taken doxy for many things. I have crohns now for over 5 years and 47 years old.

  • danDecember 4, 2012 at 3:06 am

    My son developed major GI problems from taking minocycline for acne. Does anyone have a referral for an attorney that handles this type of case? Dan (Northern California)

  • EdwardSeptember 19, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I was prscribed tetracyline during the 1980s, for acne. I had lots of gastro problems for years but wasnt diagnosed with crohn until around 2008

  • JonathanSeptember 11, 2012 at 1:13 am

    I was prescribed Tetracycline/doxycycline/minocycline antibiotics from the ages of 14-16 years old (1996-1998) for treatment of acne. In 2010 at the age of 28 I was diagnosed with crohns disease & colitis through-out my whole gastro system. The inflammation from the crohns diesase from not being treated for over 13 years then spread to my sacroilliac joints & my neck, i now have sacroilli[Show More]I was prescribed Tetracycline/doxycycline/minocycline antibiotics from the ages of 14-16 years old (1996-1998) for treatment of acne. In 2010 at the age of 28 I was diagnosed with crohns disease & colitis through-out my whole gastro system. The inflammation from the crohns diesase from not being treated for over 13 years then spread to my sacroilliac joints & my neck, i now have sacroillitis & cervical spondylosis. Im 30 now and all conventional treatment with tnf inhibitors (cimzia, humaira, enbrel) have all failed and have made me more sick and almost gave me multiple sclerosis. im now treating with natural therapy (omega3 EPA, vitamin d3 & kaprex ai). Theres something wrong with doctors that poison their patients with antibiotics and get to keep on practicing medicine while the patient is left to suffer & die from maltreatment with having their whole life taken away.

  • SueApril 4, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I was so 5 month accutane treatment last January,2011 until end of June, 2011. Over the years have taken minocyline, tetracycline and three weeks ago had emergency surgery for strangulated, obstructed small bowel. Has anyone had this problem?

  • JenniferFebruary 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    When I was pregnant with my first child in 1992 & 1993, I went into premature labor at 26 weeks, the medication I was given to stop my labor was Brethine. I remained on this medication till 38 weeks pregnant. I had physical side effects from this medication including extreme tremors and dark discoloring around my neck, (it looked a like dirty neck). I carried my daughter till 42 weeks, once sh[Show More]When I was pregnant with my first child in 1992 & 1993, I went into premature labor at 26 weeks, the medication I was given to stop my labor was Brethine. I remained on this medication till 38 weeks pregnant. I had physical side effects from this medication including extreme tremors and dark discoloring around my neck, (it looked a like dirty neck). I carried my daughter till 42 weeks, once she was born she had jondice and low blood sugar. My daughter had extreme colic for months. There were times when she would just projectile vomit as well. At the age of 8 is when life really changed for all of us, she began loosing her hair, her teeth were breaking, ass well she hadn't grown any in 3 years and had lost 10 pounds. It took us a year of hell and invasive tests to finally get a diagnosis for her, it was Crohn's Disease. I now wonder if she wasn't born with Crohn's. Also later in life she was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. She had her illium and sacum removed at age 11, and hads truely endured alot. She is currently (and since the age of 17) on Remicade injections every six weeks. My question is does thistles sound like I have grounds in the lawsuit against Brethine? I have done some reading on them and it looks more like autistic children have been suing. My next child then has Asburgers (a form of autism). However I didn't take the medication durning that pregnancy. Neither one of these issues are anywhere to be found in mine or my husbands families.

  • LaDonnaApril 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I have been taking Minocycline for 10 years and in January suffered a near fatal hepatic episode where I became jaundice and my liver enzymes tested at over 1500 when the normal range is 35. Not one time during my treatment of minocycline for acne have I ever been warned about these potential side effects nor have my liver function tests ever been taken to see if I was suffering hepatic impairme[Show More]I have been taking Minocycline for 10 years and in January suffered a near fatal hepatic episode where I became jaundice and my liver enzymes tested at over 1500 when the normal range is 35. Not one time during my treatment of minocycline for acne have I ever been warned about these potential side effects nor have my liver function tests ever been taken to see if I was suffering hepatic impairment. I have also suffered two failed pregnancies in this time. Because I am a military dependant I do not have a consistent medical regime and I believe this has caused me to fall through the cracks. I should have at least been advised of these side effects so I would know what to look for. The lack of continuity of care has been a significant factor in my extremely poor quality of care in the government system.

  • AmberMarch 21, 2011 at 3:47 am

    I'm 31 and I was using Benzaclin gel in the morning and Tretinoin cream at night (both as directed by my dermatologist) in 2006-2007 and in early 2008 I was diagnosed with the most severe type of ulcerative colitis. I'm on a waiting list for a colectomy. My family has no history of inflammatory bowel disease.

  • PatMarch 17, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I started taking minocycline when I was 14. I am now 20 and I have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I also have blurred vision, sore joints and muscles. Is there anyone out there that can help?

  • DeniceMarch 2, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    I have twin sons that took tetracycline at 16 yrs old when one of them was 19 yrs old he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and the other son at 21 yrs old was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel syndrome. They are now 32 yrs old and have gone through mental and physical trauma.

  • AndrewJanuary 9, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I was prescribed Minocin (Brand name for Minocyline) in 2007 for acne, and ended up with ulcerative colitis shortly after taking the medication. My family has no history of any inflammatory bowel diseases. The manufacturer of this drug needs to man up and take responsibility for the pain and suffering they have caused to people like me.

  • PierreJanuary 4, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Starting in 1980 my dermatologiste put me on Tetracycline Antibiotics and after got me on three consecutive Accutane treatement. at 39 years old I stared to have problems with my fertility, my bowel, urgensy, anus, rectum bleading .

  • JonathanDecember 30, 2010 at 1:21 am

    are there any people who have been prescribed Tetracycline Antibiotics (minocycline, tetracycline, doxycycline) and have no family history of CD, UC or IBD, that have been diagnosed with either?

Share Your Comments

I authorize the above comments be posted on this page*

Want your comments reviewed by a lawyer?

To have an attorney review your comments and contact you about a potential case, provide your contact information below. This will not be published.

NOTE: Providing information for review by an attorney does not form an attorney-client relationship.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

More Top Stories