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What Is Acitretin Used For?

Acitretin is licensed for treating severe psoriasis in adults who have not responded well with other psoriasis treatments. This prescription medication has a high risk of birth defects, so women of childbearing potential should only use this medication if other psoriasis treatments have failed. Healthcare providers may recommend off-label uses for acitretin as well, such as for treating discoid lupus erythematosus, Darier's disease, and pityriasis rubra pilaris.

An Overview of Acitretin Uses

Acitretin (Soriatane®) is a prescription psoriasis medication. It is generally used for people with severe psoriasis who have not responded to other available psoriasis treatments. In particular, because of the risk of birth defects, women should take this medication only if they have tried and failed with other treatments.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease. It is thought that psoriasis is caused by an overactive immune system (see Psoriasis Causes for more information). There are several different types of psoriasis, and the symptoms of psoriasis may vary, depending on the type.
Psoriasis treatment may include:
  • Medicines applied to the skin (topical psoriasis treatment)
  • Light treatments (phototherapy)
  • Psoriasis medications, whether by mouth or injection, that treat the whole immune system (called systemic therapy).
Acitretin is a type of systemic therapy. It is not a good choice for women who want to become pregnant in the near future, as pregnancy must be avoided during acitretin treatment and for a full three years after stopping this medication (due to the risk of severe birth defects).
Some patients find that acitretin initially makes their psoriasis worse, before it gets better. It can take a full two to three months to see the full benefits of acitretin.

Acitretin Drug Information

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