Canada - English - Health Canada
VITAMIN A ACID
(tretinoin gel, Manufacturer’s Standard)
0.01% or 0.025% or 0.05% Gel
TOPICAL ACNE THERAPY
Valeant Canada LP / Valeant Canada S.E.C.
4787 Levy St.
Date of Preparation:
February 20, 2012
Submission Control No.: 153418
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NAME OF DRUG
VITAMIN A ACID
(tretinoin gel, Manufacturer’s Standard)
0.01% or 0.025% or 0.05% Gel
Topical Acne Therapy
ACTIONS, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY
The interest in oral Vitamin A in the treatment of acne started some 30 years ago following
publication of a report by Straumfjord
and theoretical support for the use of the vitamin in the
reduction of hyperkeratosis came from basic science investigations. Hunter and Pinkus
a reduction in the number of keratinocytes in the human stratum corneum during oral Vitamin A
therapy. Fell and Mellanby
noticed a suppression of keratinization by excessive Vitamin A in
tissue culture. This led to the opinion that Vitamin A is antikeratinizing.
Topical use of Vitamin A was suggested as a means of reducing systemic toxicity from Vitamin
A taken orally and a number of topical forms of Vitamin A were tried. Vitamin A acid was found
to be the most potent because of its greater peeling action.
Vitamin A Acid has a very pronounced keratolytic action according to both Von Beer
. This action has led to its use in a number of dermatological conditions. It was tried
successfully by Kligman et al
in the treatment of acne vulgaris since follicular hyperkeratosis is
considered as being an initial stage of acne.
INDICATIONS and CLINICAL USES
Vitamin A Acid Gel is indicated for topical application in the treatment of acne vulgaris,
primarily Grades I, II and III in which comedones, papules and pustules predominate.
Use of the gel should be discontinued if hypersensitivity to any of the ingredients is noted.
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Use in Pregnancy: Topical Vitamin A Acid should be used by women of childbearing years
only after contraceptive counseling. It is recommended that topical Vitamin A Acid not be
used by pregnant women. There have been rare reports of birth defects among babies born to
women exposed to topical tretinoin during pregnancy. However, there are no well controlled
prospective studies of the use of topical tretinoin in pregnant women. A retrospective study of
mothers exposed to topical tretinoin during the first trimester of pregnancy found no increase in
the incidence of birth defects. Topical retinoid teratology studies in rats and rabbits have been
inconclusive. As with all retinoids, tretinoin administered orally at high doses is teratogenic.
When applying Vitamin A Acid, care should be taken not to apply near the eyes, mouth, angles
of the nose and mucous membranes. Topical use may cause severe local redness and peeling at
the site of the application. If the degree of local irritation warrants, use the medication less
frequently, discontinue use temporarily, or discontinue use completely, and consult your
Concomitant topical medications and particularly other peeling agents should be used with
caution. In case of a change of medications to Vitamin A Acid, it would be advisable to wait
until peeling from previous medications has subsided.
Because of an increased susceptibility to sunlight in patients with sunburn the use of Vitamin A
Acid is not advisable until the skin has fully recovered. Exposure to sunlight and sunlamps
should be avoided or minimized during treatment with Vitamin A Acid, because of heightened
susceptibility to UV radiation as a result of the use of tretinoin.
Use of sunburn protectant products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and
protective clothing over treated areas is recommended when exposure cannot be avoided.
In certain very sensitive patients the skin may get to be very erythematous, edematous, blistered
or crusted. In such cases, application of Vitamin A Acid should be discontinued until the skin
has fully recovered; further application should be at a level that the individual can tolerate.
Temporary hyper- or hypo-pigmentation can occur with repeated application of Vitamin A Acid.
Increased susceptibility to sunlight has been reported. All adverse reactions seem to be reversible
when treatment is discontinued.
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SYMPTOMS and TREATMENT of OVERDOSAGE
Vitamin A Acid if used excessively may cause marked erythema, severe peeling of the skin,
discomfort; on the other hand, excessive application may not bring more rapid or better results.
Amount or frequency of application should be reduced if undesirable reactions occur.
Inadvertent oral ingestion of Vitamin A Acid may lead to the same adverse effects as those
associated with excessive oral intake of Vitamin A including teratogenesis in women of
childbearing years. Therefore, in such cases, pregnancy testing should be carried out in women
of childbearing years.
For management of a suspected drug overdose, contact your regional Poison Control Centre.
DOSAGE and ADMINISTRATION
Vitamin A Acid should be applied daily, preferably before retiring where acne lesions are
present, using enough of the non-oily gel to lightly cover the affected area. An exacerbation of
the inflammatory lesions may take place during the early weeks of application. These result from
the action of the Vitamin A Acid on deep and previously unseen comedones and papules.
Therapeutic results should be seen after 2 - 4 weeks of treatment. Results may take 6 - 8 weeks
before reaching optimal degree. Once acne lesions have responded satisfactorily, improvement
can be maintained with less frequent application.
In cases of severe erythema at an early stage of treatment, the frequency of application and
amount may be reduced at the beginning of treatment and then increased progressively.
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2,4,6,8 nonatetraenoic acid
Description: Tretinoin is a yellow to light orange crystalline powder. Tretinoin is also known as
retinoic acid or as Vitamin A Acid.
VITAMIN A ACID Gel contains either 0.01%, 0.025% or 0.05% Tretinoin, USP.
Preservative: Methylparaben & Propylparaben
Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Alcohol 95%, Carboxyvinyl Polymer Carbopol 980, Isopropyl
Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Purified Water, Solulan 98, Tetrasodium Edetate Tetrahydrate and
STABILITY and STORAGE RECOMMENDATIONS
VITAMIN A ACID Gels should be stored at controlled room temperature (15-30
VITAMIN A ACID GEL 0.01%, 0.025% and 0.05% is supplied in tubes of 25 grams.
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INFORMATION FOR THE PATIENT
WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT
Your doctor has recommended VITAMIN A ACID Gel for topical application in the treatment
VITAMIN A ACID is a highly effective medication, but it is important to recognize that it is not
a quick cure. It is valuable to view the treatment as a 6-12 week program that will take time
before the best results are seen.
Since VITAMIN A ACID works from beneath the skin surface, clearing usually takes from
For most patients excellent results are achieved. During the early weeks, the primary objective is
to allow your skin to slowly build up a tolerance to this medication as it is potentially irritating.
Later your skin will adapt and clearing will occur. Keeping a long-term perspective, following
your doctor’s instruction, and maintaining your commitment over a 6-12 week time period will
help you to get the most from your treatment program.
If you are a female of childbearing years, you should use VITAMIN A ACID only after
consulting your doctor and seeking his advice for contraceptive counseling. If you are
pregnant, you should discontinue use of VITAMIN A ACID.
Your doctor has given you VITAMIN A ACID for your use only. Do not allow anyone
else to use it.
PLEASE REVIEW THE USAGE GUIDELINES.
Before starting therapy with VITAMIN A ACID products, it is advisable to
discontinue previous topical acne medications, unless otherwise specified by your
doctor. It is also advisable to discontinue medicated or abrasive soaps and
cleaners, soaps that have a strong drying effect and products with a high
concentration of alcohol or astringents, such as shaving lotions during VITAMIN
A ACID therapy.
The affected area should be washed with lukewarm water and patted dry. Wait at
least 20 minutes before applying medication. Apply VITAMIN A ACID sparingly
with the fingertips to the affected area once daily just prior to bedtime. Smooth in
lightly with the fingertips and avoid “rubbing” into the skin. Care must be taken
not to apply near the eyes, lips, nostrils or open sores, as these are most sensitive
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If medication is applied excessively, more rapid or better results will not be
obtained, and marked redness, peeling or discomfort may occur. It is better to
start out with a light application, building this up rather than vice versa. A light,
even application will bring positive results over time.
As your skin may be more sensitive to the sun’s rays, wind and cold, avoid or
minimize direct or prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays and use of sunlamps
because VITAMIN A ACID heightens the susceptibility of your skin to the
adverse effects of the sun. If exposure to sun’s rays is unavoidable, the use of
sunburn protectant products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and
protective clothing over treated areas is recommended.
Some redness, burning or peeling may occur during the first few weeks of use
until your skin adapts to the medication. Your acne condition may also appear to
worsen after a week or two as VITAMIN A ACID works to unseat previously
unseen acne lesions. This is expected and indicates that the medication is working.
Inform your doctor of these changes.
Should the redness, burning or peeling worsen or persist, reduce the frequency of
application as advised by your doctor.
The use of the product should be discontinued if any unusual reaction occurs;
keep your doctor informed.
After noticeable improvement occurs, VITAMIN A ACID can be used on a
reduced schedule with your doctor’s approval, to prevent new acne blemishes
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Interest in oral Vitamin A in the treatment of acne stems from a paper by Straumfjord in which it
was stated that the primary histologic changes seen in acne were not different in any important
way from the follicular lesions attributed to Vitamin A deficiency. He used large doses of oral
Vitamin A in the hope of reducing the primary pathological change seen in acne; i.e., the
hyperkeratosis of the sebaceous follicles. Such a theory was supported by basic science
investigation which showed:
reduction of keratinocytes in the human stratum corneum during oral
Vitamin A therapy
suppression of keratinization by excessive Vitamin A in tissue culture
Such basic findings plus hair loss from oral high doses of Vitamin A had led to the view that
Vitamin A is antikeratinizing or keratolytic.
Topical use of Vitamin A Acid was suggested as a means of reducing systemic toxicity of
Vitamin A. Kligman tried it successfully in the treatment of acne because of its great peeling
action and also because of its keratolytic properties since follicular hyperkeratosis is considered
to be an early stage of the condition.
There is considerable evidence to indicate that Vitamin A Acid prevents the formation and
appearance of comedones and unseats the comedones already present. Mill, Leyden and
say of this action, and we quote:
“The action of the drug that best explains this effect is interference with the
cohesiveness of horny cells. A comedone forms because the horny cells produced
by the follicular epithelium do not desquamate as they normally do. Instead they
stick tightly together to create an expanding impaction of horny material in the
follicular canal. Tretinoin promotes dehiscence and the keratinized cells fall
“Other disorders centering about follicular hyperkeratosis in which tretinoin has
been shown to be beneficial include pseudo-folliculitis of the beard, senile
comedones, pomade acne, acne cosmetica, trichostasis spinulosa, nevus
comedonicus, and Darier disease. In all, the key effect is sloughing of impacted
horn by dehiscence of horny cells”.
Kaidbey and Kligman
have found Vitamin A Acid to be the most comedolytic and by far of five
commonly used peeling agents including salicylic acid, sulfur-resorcinol, and benzoyl peroxide.
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Acute toxicity studies of VITAMIN A ACID were carried out in the mouse and rat. The
was found to be 640 and 600 mg/kg in the mouse and rat respectively.
When VITAMIN A ACID was administered orally it was found to be almost non-toxic; in the rat
no mortality occurred with a maximal dose if 2000 mg/kg while in the mouse a dose of
5000 mg/kg produced only 20% mortality. (In both the mouse and rat, signs of acute intoxication
included tip-toe gait, mild emprosthotonus, severe body tremors, intermittent tonic-clonic
convulsions, marked central nervous system depression, lacrimation, ptosis and severe diarrhea).
A ninety-day study of the subacute toxicity of VITAMIN A ACID was carried out on the rabbit
through the dermal route at dose levels of 2x, 10x and 20x the maximum human dose level of
0.01 mg/kg of body weight.
Animals receiving VITAMIN A ACID showed erythema and eschar formation, the severity of
which increased with increasing dose levels of the topically applied material. Hemograms and
blood biochemical parameters revealed no treatment related changes. There were no
abnormalities in bone growth. A histopathological study of the treated skin showed acute
inflammation of the upper dermis producing micro-abscesses and in some cases folliculitis
which may have been responsible for atrophic changes and some destruction of hair follicles. In
addition, changes to the epithelium were observed which included acanthosis, parakeratosis and
basal hyperplasia. These results are explained by the well known keratolytic effects of
VITAMIN A ACID.
The dermal absorption of VITAMIN A ACID was investigated in the rat and rabbit. Results
showed that dermal absorption occurred in the rabbit and possibly in the rat.
Tretinoin has been used as a standard compound for the experimental induction of malformations
in various species. The mechanism of action has not been elucidated; there are indications that
tretinoin and its analogues act directly on gene expression. It has been shown in vitro that
tretinoin inhibits chondrogenic differentiation, reduces matrix synthesis and alters matrix
A number of published reports have shown that Vitamin A ingested orally in large doses has
teratogenic effects in animals. The same teratogenic activity has also been reported with
VITAMIN A ACID. Since dermal absorption takes place, it became necessary to check the
teratogenic activity of VITAMIN A ACID following topical application. Studies of the
teratogenic effects of VITAMIN A ACID applied topically were carried out in the rat and the
rabbit at doses equivalent up to 20x the maximum human dose. In these two species, no
teratogenic effects were observed in the experimental groups which received topical application
of VITAMIN A ACID.
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Any comedogenic effect of a formulation topically applied for the treatment of acne vulgaris is
likely to worsen the condition instead of curing or preventing it. It establishes a vicious circle:
VITAMIN A ACID may hasten the resolution of papulo-pustules but any comedogenic
ingredients in the formulation may insidiously promote the formation of new comedones from
which inflammatory lesions spring. The comedogenicity of VITAMIN A ACID gel was tested in
the rabbit. Results showed the non-oily gel to be non-comedogenic.
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STRAUMFJORD JV. Vitamin A: Its effects on acne. Northwest Med 1943; 42:210-225
HUNTER R, PINKUS H. The effects of oral Vitamin A on the number of keratin cells of
human epidermis. J Invest Derm 1961; 37:459-460
FELL HB, MELLANBY E. Metaplasia produced in cultures of chick ectoderms by high
Vitamin A. J Physiol 1953; 119:470-488
Von BEER P. Untersuchungen uber die wirking der Vitamin A saure. Dermatologica
Von STUTTGEN C. Zer lokalbehandling von keratosen mit Vitamin A saure. Dermatol
KLIGMAN AM et al. Topical Vitamin A acid in acne vulgaris. Arch Dermatol 1969;
MILLS OH, LEYDEN JJ, KLIGMAN AM. Tretinoin treatment of steroid acne. Arch
Dermatol 1973; 108:381-384
MILLS OH, KLIGMAN AM. Topically applied tretinoin in the treatment of trichostasis
spinulosa. Arch Dermatol 1973; 108:378-380
KAIDBEY KH, KLIGMAN AM. Effectiveness of peeling agents on experimental open
comedones. Curtis 1975; 16:53-56
CHIZ J, MacFARLAND NH. The acute oral and intraperitoneal toxicities of retinoic acid
in the mouse and rat. Bio-Research Laboratories, Project 5914, Report No. 1, July 13,
LEVINSKY HV, DUSSAULT P, KAHN DS, MacFARLAND NH. A three-month study
of the subacute toxicity of retinoic acid in the albino rabbit. Bio-Research Laboratories,
Project 5914, Report No. 4, March 15, 1974.
LEVINSKY HV, DUSSAULT P, MacFARLAND NH. A study of the dermal absorption
of retinoic acid in the rat and rabbit. Bio-Research Laboratories, Project 5914, Report No.
2, December 18, 1974.
LEVINSKY HV, MACFARLAND NH. A study of the teratological effects of retinoic
acid in the rat. Bio-Research Laboratories, Project 5914, Report No. 3, January 22, 1974.
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OWSTON E, PROCTER B, CHAPPEL CI. A study of the teratological effects of retinoic
acid in the rabbit. Bio-Research Laboratories, Project 5914, Report No. 6, December 31,
Proctor BG, RONA G. A study of the potential comedogenicity of a proposed new acne
medication. Bio-Research Laboratories, Project 5507, Report, August 4, 1976.
PAPA CM. The cutaneous safety of topical tretinoin. Acta Dermatoverner (Stockholm)
1975; Suppl. 74.
ZIMMERMANN B. Effects of all-trans retinoic acid on chondrogenesis and
endochondral mineralization in cartilage organoid culture. Teratology 1995; 51 (6):18A
JICK SJ, TERRIS BZ, JICK H. First trimester topical tretinoin and congenital disorders.
Lancet 1993; 341:1181 - 82