Acne for the ages… and why medical research can help


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the United States. Forty to fifty million Americans have it at any one time. It does not only affect teens; a growing number of women have acne in their 30s, 40s and beyond, and the reason is unknown.

Acne may involve several types of blemishes, including blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules that can appear on the face, neck, shoulders, upper arms, chest, back, and buttocks. In addition to the immediate and long term physical affects (including dark spots that can last for years and permanent scarring), while not dangerous, it can also lead to low self esteem, anxiety, and depression and cause emotional pain and psychological damage.

The condition generally occurs when a pore in the skin clogs, beginning with dead skin cells trapped inside by sebum (oil). Sebum is oil produced by the sebaceous glands, usually driven by changes in hormone levels. Sometimes bacteria that normally lives on our skin can also get inside the clogged pore and then multiply quickly, causing inflammation.

There are many different acne treatments today and results vary. Many are topical treatments, meaning they are applied to the skin. Some of these help kill the bacteria while others help reduce the sebum; these contain medications such as retinoid, benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, resorcinal,
azelaic acid, sulfur, and salicylic acid. When cysts and nodules are present, dermatologists may prescribe antibiotics, birth control pills, or isotretinoin. Procedures can include laser and light therapies that reduce the bacteria; chemical peels; or drainage and extraction.

Current medical research is focused on better and faster treatments for adults and children alike, but parents may be hesitant to enroll their child in a medical research study. There are risks associated with participation, such as side effects or ineffectiveness, but, rest assured, laws require every clinical investigator to safeguard participants through strict rules regarding study plans or protocols and patient monitoring. The Institutional Review Board (IRB), made up of doctors, scientists, and citizens, must approve every single clinical trial in the United States and make sure that the risks are as low as possible. And, there are special regulations for studies involving children in place. According to a summary of these regulations posted by the Office for Human Research Protections, the IRB also considers the “potential benefits, risks, and discomforts of the research to children and assess[es] the justification for their inclusion in the research.” In short, the benefits need to outweigh the risks in order for the study to be approved.

In addition to all of the safety standards described above, all clinics have a thorough informed consent process that will ensure you know exactly what the trial is about, what is expected, what your rights are, and will give you the chance to ask questions so that you are completely comfortable and confident in the decision for you or your child to participate. If not, you can elect at any time to stop participating.

Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “groundbreaking scientific advances in the present and the past were possible only because of participation of volunteers, both healthy and those with an illness, in clinical research…As research opens new doors to finding ways to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease and disability, clinical trial participation is essential to help us find the answers.”

Meridien Research is current enrolling an acne research study for males and females ages 12 to 40 years of age at our St. Petersburg clinic. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 1-888-777-8839 or visit