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  • 1 October 2018 to 31 July 2020
  • Project No: 442
  • Funding round: FR17


We will systematically search for all existing research on topical acne treatments. We will bring this evidence together in a way that allows us to make comparisons about the effectiveness of different treatments.


Acne is very common in teenagers but also affects many adults. The impact on quality of life and self-confidence at all ages can be great.  Acne is often treated with creams and lotions (topical treatments), long courses of oral antibiotics (i.e. antibiotics taken by mouth), or a combination of oral antibiotics and topical treatments. GPs most commonly prescribe topical treatments that include antibiotics, but Dermatologists usually don’t.

Research studies have shown that these topical treatments are effective when compared to no treatment, but there is little evidence about how they compare to one another. This makes it difficult for patients and doctors to know which treatments to use.


We will examine all existing randomised trials on the most commonly prescribed topical acne treatments to see whether they differ in terms of effectiveness and side effects.

We will combine the information from published trials of acne creams/lotions using a technique called network meta-analysis.  This will allow us to make comparisons across all pairs of acne treatments, comparing different topical treatments with each other. Comparing outcomes using network meta-analysis allows us to make these comparisons, even if treatments have not been directly compared in the original trials.

Potential impact

This research will help patients and doctors to have the information they need in order to discuss the best choice of treatment for acne, based both on effectiveness and the likelihood of experiencing side effects.

Amount awarded: £31 629

Projects by themes

We have grouped projects under the five SPCR themes in this document

Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.