What teens would pay to be acne-free

Teens report that they would pay about $275 (about R2,000) to have never had acne, and are willing to pay considerably more to be acne-free than to have 50% clearance of their acne or to have clear skin with acne scars, according to a report in the Archives of Dermatology.

Acne vulgaris affects almost all adolescents and has been associated with anxiety, depression, embarrassment and social dysfunction. "Reducing the psychosocial impact of acne is considered one of the guiding principles for its clinical management and it is important to measure and evaluate this impact," the authors write.

Survey study

Dr Cynthia Chen and colleagues at the University of California, US, studied 266 teen volunteers with acne from four public high schools in San Francisco. The participants completed written surveys regarding how much of their lifetime they would give up or how much money they would pay to have never had acne, to be 100% acne-free from then on, to have 100% acne clearance but with visible scarring or to have 50% acne clearance. They and their parents also were asked about acne history and severity, and parents were asked about their willingness to pay since they typically bear the cost of their children's acne treatment.

The researchers' used teens' responses to the time trade-off question to calculate their current acne state utility score. This was done by dividing the participants' reduced life expectancy in years without acne by his or her life expectancy in years with acne. The average score for the current acne state was 0.961; 100-percent clearance received a higher score (0.978) than 50% clearance (0.967) and 100% clearance with scarring (0.965).

Willingness to pay

On the willingness-to-pay analysis, the teens reported they would pay a median of $275 (around R2,000) to have never had acne, $100 (R700) to be 100% cleared of acne, $10 (R72) for 50% clearance and zero for 100% clearance with scarring. Parents said they would pay a median of $250 (R1,800) for their child to never have had acne, $100 (R700) for 100% clearance, $100 (R700) for 50% clearance and zero for 100% clearance with scarring.

Adolescents who rated their acne as more severe reported a willingness to trade more time and money for acne clearance than those with less severe acne.

"Knowledge of these patient preferences may help dermatologists balance clinical trial results with patients' expectations of therapy," the authors write. "Randomised, blinded, placebo-controlled trials have shown that three to four months of conventional acne therapy, including topical benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoids and oral antibiotics, typically produces reductions in lesion counts in the 40% to 60% range."

"It has also been suggested that the incidence of scarring from facial acne approaches 95%," they continue. "Thus, adolescents' marked preference for total clearance over partial (50%) clearance or clearance with scarring suggests that physicians must weigh high patient expectations against these clinical data regarding efficacy and risk of sequelae." - (EurekAlert!, August 2008)

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