Frequently asked questions

What is AcneAlly?


AcneAlly is a service that connects board-certified dermatologists with patients who are interested in isotretinoin (generic accutane) for acne.




What makes AcneAlly different?


In the past, patients had to see a dermatologist in person every month in order to get isotretinoin (generic accutane) in addition to monthly visits to the pharmacy and visits to a lab to check blood tests and pregnancy tests. Throught the power of telemedicne, your dermatologist using the AcneAlly platform can prescribe isotretinoin entirely online without any visits to a dermatology office or pharmacy. Patients will still need to have their bloodwork (labs) and pregnancy tests checked at recommended times, following the recommendations of their dermatologist.




What is a board-certified dermatologist?


Dermatologists are physicians (M.D.s) who completed medical school, a one year internship after medical school, and a three year accredited dermatology residency before passing a comprehensive examination by the Americal Board of Dermatology. You can identify a board-certified dermatologist by looking for these initials after their name: F.A.A.D. This signifies that they are Fellows of the American Academy of Dermatology. All physicians on the AcneAlly platform are board certified dermatologists.




What is generic accutane (isotretinoin)?


Isotretinoin (generic Accutane) is a very effective oral (pill form) acne medicine that dermatologists have been prescribing safely since it became FDA approved in 1982. Patients with acne typically stay on this medicine for at least six to nine months, during which their acne improves. Typically, a patient’s acne will resolve completely partway through the course of this medicine. After the patient completes their course of isotretinoin, many patients will continue to experience long term clearance of their acne without having to use any prescription acne treatments again. Patients who do have their acne return after treatment typically notice that it is much more mild and easily treatable with simple treatments. It is uncommon for a patient to need a second course of isotretinoin.




What are the side effects of isotretinoin?


Isotretinoin can be used safely when under the supervision of a board-certified dermatologist. The entire motivation behind AcneAlly is to ensure that this medicine is used as safely as possible. Dermatologists are skin and acne experts and all of us are extremely comfortable with using this medication to guide patients to healthy skin. In fact, dermatologists have been prescribing this medicine safely since it was first FDA approved in 1982. That being said, there are a number of potential side effects that patients should be aware of. Many of them are mentioned here, but for a more complete list, you can review the FDA documentation. Foremost, isotretinoin is a teratogen, meaning that pregnant mothers taking this medication have a high likelihood of harming their fetus with congenital defects. For this reason, dermatologists and the FDA are extremely strict about preventing pregnancy for patients on isotretinoin. This is the basis for why all patients (male and female) must check in monthly with their dermatologist and why females must complete monthly tasks on the iPledge program. Other common side effects are dry lips, skin, eyes, and nasal mucosa (potentially causing nose bleeds). Almost everyone will experience dry skin and lips and you need to be diligent about applying moisturizer and lip balm. Many patients also become sun-sensitive so it is important to wear sunscreen and avoid sun exposure. Some patients also will notice joint/muscle aches (especially low back aches), alopecia, or a dry itchy rash. Sometimes this medicine can raise certain blood counts like your triglycerides (related to cholesterol), or your liver enzymes (indicating liver irritation), thus we monitor these before starting treatment and at least once during treatment. These are the common side effects, and it is rare for us to run into other problems. At AcneAlly, we will also frequently check in with patients about their mood and gastrointestinal changes. There have been some reports of gut inflammation or mood changes on this medicine, and the American Academy of Dermatology has an official statement on this: "A correlation between isotretinoin use and depression/anxiety symptoms has been suggested but an evidence-based causal relationship has not been established. Other studies give evidence that treatment of acne with isotretinoin was accompanied by improvement of both depressive and anxiety symptoms, as well as improved quality of life of patients with acne. Current evidence is insufficient to prove either an association or a causal relationship between isotretinoin use and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the general population. While some recent studies have suggested such a relationship, further studies are required to conclusively determine if the association or causal relationship exists and/or whether IBD risk may be linked to the presence of severe acne itself." Nevertheless, we take even the rarest side effects very seriously and monitor our patient’s mood and GI symptoms at every monthly visit. There are also rare reports of increased intracranial pressure. We monitor our patients for headaches and drug interactions, although this side effect is very rare. Rare bone side effects like softening or thinning have also been reported, which can lead to fractures. More information about side effects, including other very rare side effects can be found on the official FDA documentation.




What is the purpose of the initial consult?


The initial consult collects information from the patient, including photographs, and a dermatologist will determine whether the patient is a good candidate for isotretinoin.




Where do I go to get my lab work (blood tests) and pregnancy tests?


We recommend that patients go to Quest Diagnostics for laboratory and pregnancy tests. Almost everyone in the United States has a Quest Diagnostics within a short distance. You can find these here.




What am I paying for with the monthly subscription? What additional costs are there?


The monthly subscription is for access to your dermatologist on the AcneAlly platform. Monthly check-ins with a dermatologist are required for isotretinoin, and are important because the dermatologist will need to closely monitor your skin, order lab tests if needed, and is only allowed by the FDA to prescribe 30 days worth of medicine at a time. Remember that this monthly subscription is not health insurance and does not cover the cost of medication and labs. If you have health insurance, there is a good likelihood that your laboratory (blood work) tests and medication could be entirely or mostly covered and thus be free or inexpensive. Call your insurance company to inquire about the coverage of isotretinoin and laboratory tests.




Will my insurance cover isotretinoin and laboratory tests?


There's a good chance they will! You have to call your insurance company to find out.




Will my insurance cover the cost of the AcneAlly subscription?


No, the AcneAlly consult and subscription are not available through insurance. These must be paid by credit card in order to access our platform.