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Southampton Clinical Trials UnitNews

Local volunteers needed for new study into treating women with acne

Published: 8 May 2019
Logo for SAFA trial
Logo for SAFA trial

Doctors at the University of Southampton are looking to recruit women who suffer with acne for a new clinical trial in Dorset and Hampshire. The SAFA study (Spironolactone for Adult Female Acne) will will investigate whether this treatment can improve outcomes in this common condition.

Many adults live with acne for years, and are often treated with prolonged courses of antibiotics but rising rates of microbial antibiotic resistance mean alternative treatments are needed.

Spironolactone is usually given to people for high blood pressure. It is also thought to lower hormones that trigger grease production by the skin. In acne, the skin produces more grease than normal, so some dermatologists think that spironolactone can help treat acne. Spironolactone has been used off-license in acne affecting women for over 30 years. Yet, there is no robust evidence that it works.

Dr Miriam Santer (co-Chief Investigator; GP and Associate Professor in Primary Care Research, University of Southampton) explained that “Some dermatologists use spironolactone to treat acne, especially in the United States. But, there have hardly been any trials conducted around this, and the biggest trial to date only involved 50 participants. So there is very little evidence.”

SAFA will involve women aged 18 years or older. Participants will be randomised to take either spironolactone tablets, or a matching placebo, for six months. The study will recruit from up to five hospitals, including Poole Hospital and St Mary's General Hospital, Portsmouth

General Practices local to the hospitals will also be asked to contact any patients they think might be keen to take part.

If spironolactone works for acne, this trial will inform national and international guidelines. Results may encourage using spironolactone instead of antibiotics to treat acne in women.

The £1.7 million study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research. Dr Santer and Dr Alison Layton (Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust) are leading the work, along with researchers at the Universities of Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, East Anglia and Nottingham. The trial is being run by Southampton Clinical Trials Unit (

Anyone interested in taking part in the trial can find more information on the study website:


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