In the field of pharmaceutical research, there is a perception that sometimes substances which can’t be patented in their naturally occurring form aren’t adequately studied. This is because no drug company gets to corner the market for that particular active ingredient by claiming that they invented it in a lab. Patient advocate groups believe that many highly effective plant-based treatment options are overlooked because of this. However, there are actually quite a few natural substances that are prescribed in dermatology regularly with good results. Many of these products are studied and tested extensively. For example, azelaic acid has been given close scrutiny for its ability to treat rosacea.
What Is Azelaic Acid?
This saturated dicarboxylic acid is a yeast byproduct found in wheat and several other grains. The acid is generally used in creams and gels in concentrations of 15% to treat rosacea. The substance has anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to be effective in killing bacteria as well. Unlike some other preparations prescribed for skin conditions, this ingredient is not noted for increasing sensitivity to sun exposure. However, it can cause skin irritation symptoms such as redness, drying, peeling, or itching in some individuals. This is one reason it is available only by prescription in the United States. Rosacea patients should always follow their dermatologist’s instructions for using products such as Finacea and Azelex to reduce the likelihood of side effects.
Recent Evidence From Dermatology Studies
One azelaic acid study has shed some light on the mechanism by which this medication actually works to reduce inflammation caused by UVB radiation exposure. Sunlight is one of the top triggers for rosacea symptoms; the information gained through this study may prove useful in creating even more effective topical rosacea treatments. The acid apparently affects the protein activities of RNA in skin cells called keratinocytes (these make up 95% of the epidermis) and in the molecules that transfer signals between cells. The medication has a dual effect of suppressing an unwanted response and promoting a desired response at the molecular level.
Another recent trial contrasted patients using a 15% acid gel with those using metronizadole gel. At the 6 week mark, the patients using the acid gel showed much greater improvement – but at other points during the trial both treatments had similar success rates. Regardless, azelaic acid is being shown to provide significant results for patients with both moderate and severe rosacea inflammation. Quick reduction of rosacea symptoms and long term remission for a high percentage of patients are two of the benefits confirmed by clinical evidence.