Differin for Acne Now Approved Without a Prescription

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Differin (adapalene) 0.1% gel for acne is the latest prescription medication to make the jump over the counter, with approval from the FDA in July 2016.

There are many prescription and over the counter (OTC) options out there to treat acne, but most of the OTC products have one of two active ingredients: benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Differin has been a popular prescription treatment, and you’ll now be able to find it on the shelves of your local pharmacy without a visit to your doctor.

Who can use Differin?
Differin Gel 0.1% is for use by patients 12 years of age and older.

Is there anything unique about the OTC approval of Differin Gel 0.1%?

Yes. The approval of Differin Gel 0.1% for sale without a prescription marks the first new FDA-approved product to be introduced to the OTC acne category in over 30 years.

It’s also the first and only OTC acne product containing a full prescription-strength retinoid (a strong acne fighter).

Are there any other strengths of prescription Differin?

Yes. Differin gel is also available in a 0.3% strength. Differin 0.3% still requires a prescription and is not available OTC.

Are there any other dosage forms of prescription Differin?

Yes. Differin (and generic adapalene) is also available with a prescription in the following dosage forms and strengths:

What is an advantage of using OTC Differin Gel?
Convenience, first and foremost. Because Differin gel 0.1% will available without a prescription you will no longer be required to see your doctor to get refill.

The second advantage is that you get the same prescription strength as the original Differin—this isn’t a different medication with the same active ingredient.

What is a disadvantage of using OTC Differin Gel?
Cost. Because generic Differin (adapalene) is available by prescription it can be billed to your prescription insurance. Your co-pay will typically be lower than the cash price of OTC Differin.

And, because Differin is the only OTC product of its kind, the manufacturer may be able to set the price higher than other OTC acne treatments.

What other options are available OTC for acne?

The big OTC options include any of the various benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid acne products.

There are also a bunch of “natural” products that can be used for acne, including tea tree oil, witch hazel, green tea extract, masks and exfoliants, and more.

Want more information?

Check out the news release from the FDA here.

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