Prioritizing treatment outcomes: How people with acne vulgaris decide if their treatment is working

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Abstract

Objective:

To collect information about how people with acne make day-to-day decisions concerning the effectiveness of their treatment.

Methods:

Between May and August 2013, an optional question was embedded in the James Lind Alliance Acne Priority Setting Partnership's online survey to collect treatment uncertainties. The question asked people with acne to “Tell us in your own words how you decide if your treatment has been effective.”

Results:

A total of 742 respondents specified at least one outcome or means of assessing change (outcome measure). Fewer spots were the most commonly cited outcome, identified by 272 respondents (36.7%). Other frequently mentioned outcomes were in descending order: less redness (19.4%), reduction in spot size (12.1%), and less pain/discomfort (11.4%). Signs were much more commonly used than symptoms and surrogate outcomes such as changes in aspects of life quality were infrequently mentioned. Visual inspection of the skin was the most widely adopted outcome measure (16.3%).

Conclusions:

Although the most frequently used methods map well onto the outcome measures adopted in the majority of acne trials, namely physician-assessed changes in lesion counts and global acne severity, people with acne often take into account several factors that cannot be assessed by a third party at a single point in time. The minimal use of changes in psychosocial wellbeing and mood may reflect that these are regarded as secondary consequences of improvements in appearance. The robustness of these findings now requires independent evaluation. If confirmed, they could form the basis of a new patient-reported outcome measure.

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