Acne sufferers can spend months - if not years - on a mix of antibiotics, contributing to the problem of antibiotic resistance and experiencing a variety of side-effects, because GPs do not have guidelines to recommend alternatives such as light therapy, which potentially offer a safe and effective treatment.
The NHS spends over £20m1 a year on topical acne creams of which three quarters contain antibiotics. If unsuccessful or the benefit declines, treatment is then escalated to include the oral antibiotic Tetracycline.
Tetracyclines account for about 18% of all antibiotic consumption according to Public Health England (PHE) 2, with 92% prescribed by GPs. Reducing topical and oral antibiotics usage for acne would therefore support the international goal of reducing resistance.
The problem of acne is increasing. Dr Rakesh Patalay, consultant dermatologist, says: “Acne is not just a teenage condition. We are seeing increasing numbers of older people with the condition and persistent acne can have a large impact on your quality of life.”
However, GPs are offered very few alternatives to antimicrobials within the British National Formulary/NICE protocol3. Even though trials of light therapy by consultant dermatologists have shown that blue light kills the bacterium that causes acne, relatively few independent studies have been conducted.
For example, the NHS currently spends £8m a year on anti-microbial Benzoyl Peroxide treatments. However, a clinical trial by Dr Tony Chu, a consultant dermatologist at Hammersmith Hospital4, found that a combination of blue and red light was more effective than benzoyl peroxide cream, with trialists with mild to moderate acne reporting a 76% improvement in their skin in less than 12 weeks compared to 30% using benzoyl peroxide. Furthermore, light had none of the side-effects associated with harsh cream, such as burning, itching, dry skin, redness and peeling.
Lumie Clear was developed following this research by Lumie, a light therapy company that has over 20 years of experience in producing light treatments for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and sleeping problems. It is the only home light therapy treatment to have a light range specifically set at 415nm for the blue light combined with 660nm for the red light which, according to research, optimises its beneficial impact. It can be hand-held or placed on its adjustable stand for hands-free treatment and, when used regularly for a few minutes each day, there is a noticeable difference in a couple of weeks.
Light therapy is promising and can be used alongside other treatments. Dr Patalay says: “Lumie Clear can be used by anyone without prescription and is complementary to other treatments”.
More people are being affected by acne; it is becoming a life-long problem that extends beyond adolescence. Some women are affected later in life and younger men have fewer options for treatment. With the increasing resistance to antibiotics the need for alternatives has a new urgency.
- £20m was spent on topical acne treatments (NIC) in the year to September 2012 according to Trends in Spending on Skin Preparations in General Practice in England. www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk_PrescriptionServices_Documents_PPDPrescribingAnalysisCharts_Antibiotics_Jun_2013_National.pdf
- English surveillance programme antimicrobial utilization and resistance (ESPAUR) 2014 report, Public Health England, 10 October 2014.
- Clinical trials conducted by Dr Chu and his dermatology team, at Hammersmith Hospital, showed that combining blue and red light at specific bandwidths were most effective at treating bacteria that cause acne. Lumie worked with these dermatogists to design Lumie Clear as a medically certified home treatment device. (Papageorigius P, Katsambas A, Chu A, Phototherapy with blue (415 nm) and red (660 nm) light in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Br J Dermatol, 2000 May; 142(5);973-8.)