Acne Stinks, But Treatment Doesn’t Have to Cost You Hundreds

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Here are some commonly prescribed meds for acne that cost big bucks
, along with some secrets to help you save money. First, meet the players in the fight against acne: topical (to rub on your face) Retin-A derivatives, topical antibiotics and oral antibiotics.


Retin-A Derivatives (Topical Retinoids):

Topical retinoids are a compelling option for maintenance therapy of acne instead of oral antibiotics. They are available in multiple strengths and formulations with lower strength preparations causing less irritation.

Tretinoin is available as a generic and as brand name versions (Retin-A and Renova). Tretinoin comes in different strengths and will be your cheapest option, at as low as $35 – $50 for a tube of tretinoin cream, depending on the strength.

Adapalene is a generic gel that comes in different strengths and it more expensive than tretinoin; Differin is the brand name version. Adapalene is only available as a 0.1% gel, for around $160 for a tube, while Differin is available in both 0.1% and 0.3% strengths.

Epiduo is a combination of adapalene and benzoyl peroxide where you get your retinoid and antibiotic together. It’s expensive, likely around $250 for a tube of gel, and because benzoyl peroxide is usually quite cheap it may not be worth paying for the combo. It’s up to you.

Retin-A Micro is microsphere preparation of tretinoin that may cause less irritation but is more costly, at $260 – $320 for a tube of gel.

Avita gel is another form of tretinoin that may cause less irritation, but again, it will cost big bucks (about $150 – $175 for a tube) because it’s brand name only.

Tazorac (tazarotene) is used for the treatment of acne as well as psoriasis. It has been considered the most effective but also the most irritating topical retinoid. It’s also brand name only and crazy expensive, at $200 – $250 for only of gel.


Topical Antibiotics:

Benzaclin is a popular gel of 1% clindamycin and 5% benzoyl peroxide. This, you can afford at about $75 – $90 for a tube of the generic version, clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide.

Acanya is a gel for acne that is very expensive. A good secret is that Acanya is a mixture of clindamycin gel (1%) and benzoyl peroxide gel (2.5%), both of which are generic. Mix those two and you will have Acanya. Acanya is about $260 for a tube, while you can find  a tube of clindamycin 1% for as low as $4 – $10 through some generic discount programs, and a 30 gram tube of benzoyl peroxide 2.5% for as low as $15 – possibly coming in under $20 – $25 for the same medication.

Duac is another brand name gel that is the same thing as Benzaclin, and tends to be more expensive, at just over $200 for 45 grams.

Ziana is another expensive acne gel, and another case where you can make your own by mixing two generic gels: clindamycin 1% gel and tretinoin 0.025% gel. Ziana is around $225 – $250 for 30 grams, where 30 grams of clindamycin gel can cost as little as $4 – $10, and 45 grams of tretinoin 0.025% gel as little as $50 – $100, making the combination purchased separately less than half the cost of the brand name.


Antibiotic Pills:

Doxycycline is the standard treatment, prescribed at a dose of to twice a day. It’s generic and cheap, as little as $4 for a 30-day supply through some generic discount programs, regardless of strength.

Oracea is an expensive tablet of doxycycline used to treat acne. Oracea is equally effective to a dose of generic doxycycline and it’s really expensive, over $400 for a 30-day supply.

Minocycline is less photosensitizing (less likely to cause a rash when in the sun) than doxycycline, and is also available as a cheaper generic. Minocycline to capsules twice a day is the dose used for acne, and it can be found for as low as $12 – $30 for a 30-day supply (60 capsules, in this case).

Solodyn is an extended release version of minocycline (more convenient at once daily dosing) but it’s super expensive, as a brand name or generic, as much as $560 up to almost $1000 for a 30-day supply. Regular minocycline capsules will be hundreds of dollars cheaper than Solodyn or other brands Minocin or Dynacin, so know there are options before you pay the big bucks.


There you have it.

Dr. O.

Where generic versions are available for these medications, they will most likely be covered by insurance as Tier 1 medications, meaning you will pay only your lowest co-pay. Brand name coverage varies, even for individual drugs among different insurance companies. Most are Tier 2 or 3 medications, meaning a higher co-pay, but check with your insurance company to find your particular coverage.

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