Photodynamic therapy treats acne

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) — also called photo radiation therapy, phototherapy, or photo chemotherapy — involves using a drug called a photosensitizing agent, which is activated by being exposed to a specific wave length of light. It’s often used to treat certain cancers. Now it’s being used to treat acne too.

Two studies (here and here) of similar design concluded that topical methyl aminolaevulinate (MAL)-PDT is effective for moderate to severe inflammatory facial acne.

It’s also very painful.

12 weeks after 2 treatments given 2 weeks apart, both studies reported a statistically significant greater reduction in the total inflammatory lesion count with MAL-PDT compared to placebo PDT. In one study there was a 68% reduction from baseline in inflammatory lesions vs. no change in the control group.

Both studies also pointed to pain as a significant side effect. In fact, in one study pain was responsible for 7 out of 21 patients dropping out after the first treatment.

MAL-PDT might have a role, but is it worth the discomfort?

10/25/06 22:21 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.