Dapsone: Package Insert and Label Information

DAPSONE- dapsone gel


Dapsone Gel, 5%, is indicated for the topical treatment of acne vulgaris.


For topical use only. Not for oral, ophthalmic, or intravaginal use.

After the skin is gently washed and patted dry, apply approximately a pea-sized amount of dapsone gel, 5%, in a thin layer to the acne affected areas twice daily. Rub in dapsone gel, 5%, gently and completely. Dapsone gel, 5%, is gritty with visible drug substance particles. Wash hands after application of dapsone gel, 5%.

If there is no improvement after 12 weeks, treatment with dapsone gel, 5%, should be reassessed.


Gel, 5%. Each gram of dapsone gel contains 50 mg of dapsone in a white to pale yellowish gel.




5.1 Methemoglobinemia

Cases of methemoglobinemia, with resultant hospitalization, have been reported postmarketing in association with dapsone gel, 5% treatment. Patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency or congenital or idiopathic methemoglobinemia are more susceptible to drug-induced methemoglobinemia. Avoid use of dapsone gel, 5% in those patients with congenital or idiopathic methemoglobinemia.

Signs and symptoms of methemoglobinemia may be delayed some hours after exposure. Initial signs and symptoms of methemoglobinemia are characterized by a slate grey cyanosis seen in, e.g., buccal mucous membranes, lips and nail beds. Advise patients to discontinue dapsone gel, 5% and seek immediate medical attention in the event of cyanosis.

Dapsone can cause elevated methemoglobin levels particularly in conjunction with methemoglobin-inducing agents.

5.2 Hematologic Effects

Oral dapsone treatment has produced dose-related hemolysis and hemolytic anemia. Individuals with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency are more prone to hemolysis with the use of certain drugs. G6PD deficiency is most prevalent in populations of African, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean ancestry.

Some subjects with G6PD deficiency using dapsone gel developed laboratory changes suggestive of hemolysis. There was no evidence of clinically relevant hemolysis or anemia in patients treated with dapsone gel, 5%, including patients who were G6PD deficient.

Discontinue dapsone gel, 5%, if signs and symptoms suggestive of hemolytic anemia occur. Avoid use of dapsone gel, 5% in patients who are taking oral dapsone or antimalarial medications because of the potential for hemolytic reactions. Combination of dapsone gel, 5%, with trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX) may increase the likelihood of hemolysis in patients with G6PD deficiency.

5.3 Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy (motor loss and muscle weakness) has been reported with oral dapsone treatment. No events of peripheral neuropathy were observed in clinical trials with topical dapsone gel, 5% treatment.

5.4 Skin

Skin reactions (toxic epidermal necrolysis, erythema multiforme, morbilliform and scarlatiniform reactions, bullous and exfoliative dermatitis, erythema nodosum, and urticaria) have been reported with oral dapsone treatment. These types of skin reactions were not observed in clinical trials with topical dapsone gel, 5% treatment.


6.1 Clinical Studies Experience

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in practice.

Serious adverse reactions reported in subjects treated with dapsone gel, 5%, during clinical trials included but were not limited to the following:

  • Nervous system/Psychiatric – Suicide attempt, tonic clonic movements.
  • Gastrointestinal – Abdominal pain, severe vomiting, pancreatitis.
  • Other – Severe pharyngitis

In the clinical trials, a total of 12 out of 4032 subjects were reported to have depression (3 of 1660 treated with vehicle and 9 of 2372 treated with dapsone gel, 5%). Psychosis was reported in 2 of 2372 subjects treated with dapsone gel, 5%, and in 0 of 1660 subjects treated with vehicle.

Combined contact sensitization/irritation studies with dapsone gel, 5%, in 253 healthy subjects resulted in at least 3 subjects with moderate erythema. Dapsone gel, 5%, did not induce phototoxicity or photoallergy in human dermal safety studies.

Dapsone gel, 5%, was evaluated for 12 weeks in four controlled trials for local cutaneous events in 1819 subjects. The most common events reported from these studies include oiliness/peeling, dryness, and erythema. These data are shown by severity in Table 1 below.

Table 1 – Application Site Adverse Reactions by Maximum Severity
Dapsone Gel 5% (N=1819) Vehicle (N=1660)
Application Site Event Mild Moderate Severe Mild Moderate Severe
Erythema 9% 5% <1% 9% 6% <1%
Dryness 14% 3% <1% 14% 4% <1%
Oiliness/Peeling 13% 6% <1% 15% 6% <1%

The adverse reactions occurring in at least 1% of subjects in either arm in the four vehicle controlled trials are presented in Table 2.

Table 2 – Adverse Reactions Occurring in at least 1% of Subjects
Dapsone Gel 5% (N=1819) Vehicle (N=1660)
NOS = Not otherwise specified
Application Site Reaction NOS 18% 20%
Application Site Dryness 16% 17%
Application Site Erythema 13% 14%
Application Site Burning 1% 2%
Application Site Pruritus 1% 1%
Pyrexia 1% 1%
Nasopharyngitis 5% 6%
Upper Respiratory Tract Inf. NOS 3% 3%
Sinusitis NOS 2% 1%
Influenza 1% 1%
Pharyngitis 2% 2%
Cough 2% 2%
Joint Sprain 1% 1%
Headache NOS 4% 4%

One subject treated with dapsone gel in the clinical trials had facial swelling which led to discontinuation of medication.

In addition, 486 subjects were evaluated in a 12 month safety trial. The adverse event profile in this trial was consistent with that observed in the vehicle-controlled trials.

6.2 Experience with Oral Use of Dapsone

Although not observed in the clinical trials with dapsone gel (topical dapsone) serious adverse reactions have been reported with oral use of dapsone, including agranulocytosis, hemolytic anemia, peripheral neuropathy (motor loss and muscle weakness), and skin reactions (toxic epidermal necrolysis, erythema multiforme, morbilliform and scarlatiniform reactions, bullous and exfoliative dermatitis, erythema nodosum, and urticaria).

6.3 Postmarketing Experience

Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.

The following adverse reactions have been identified during post-approval use of topical dapsone: methemoglobinemia, rash (including erythematous rash, application site rash) and swelling of face (including lip swelling, eye swelling).


7.1 Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole

A drug-drug interaction study evaluated the effect of the use of dapsone gel, 5%, in combination with double strength (160 mg/800 mg) trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX). During co-administration, systemic levels of TMP and SMX were essentially unchanged. However, levels of dapsone and its metabolites increased in the presence of TMP/SMX. Systemic exposure (AUC0-12 ) of dapsone and N-acetyldapsone (NAD) were increased by about 40% and 20% respectively in the presence of TMP/SMX. Notably, systemic exposure (AUC0-12 ) of dapsone hydroxylamine (DHA) was more than doubled in the presence of TMP/SMX. Exposure from the proposed topical dose is about 1% of that from the 100 mg oral dose, even when co-administered with TMP/SMX.

7.2 Topical Benzoyl Peroxide

Topical application of dapsone gel followed by benzoyl peroxide in subjects with acne vulgaris resulted in a temporary local yellow or orange discoloration of the skin and facial hair (reported by 7 out of 95 subjects in a clinical study) with resolution in 4 to 57 days.

7.3 Drug Interactions with Oral Dapsone

Certain concomitant medications (such as rifampin, anticonvulsants, St. John’s wort) may increase the formation of dapsone hydroxylamine, a metabolite of dapsone associated with hemolysis. With oral dapsone treatment, folic acid antagonists such as pyrimethamine have been noted to possibly increase the likelihood of hematologic reactions.

7.4 Concomitant Use with Drugs that Induce Methemoglobinemia

Concomitant use of dapsone gel with drugs that induce methemoglobinemia such as sulfonamides, acetaminophen, acetanilide, aniline dyes, benzocaine, chloroquine, dapsone, naphthalene, nitrates and nitrites, nitrofurantoin, nitroglycerin, nitroprusside, pamaquine, para-aminosalicylic acid, phenacetin, phenobarbital, phenytoin, primaquine, and quinine may increase the risk for developing methemoglobinemia [see Warnings and Precautions (5.1)].


8.1 Pregnancy

Risk Summary

There are no available data on dapsone gel, 5%, use in pregnant women to inform a drug-associated risk for adverse developmental outcomes. In animal reproduction studies, oral doses of dapsone administered to pregnant rats and rabbits during organogenesis that resulted in systemic exposures more than 250 times the systemic exposure at the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD) of dapsone gel, 5%, resulted in embryocidal effects. When orally administered to rats from the onset of organogenesis through the end of lactation at systemic exposures approximately 400 times the exposure at the MRHD, dapsone resulted in increased stillbirths and decreased pup weight [see Data].

The estimated background risks of major birth defects and miscarriage for the indicated population are unknown. In the U.S. general population, the estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage in clinically recognized pregnancies is 2 to 4% and 15 to 20%, respectively.


Animal Data

Dapsone has been shown to have an embryocidal effect in rats and rabbits when administered orally daily to females during organogenesis at dosages of 75 mg/kg/day and 150 mg/kg/day, respectively. These dosages resulted in systemic exposures that represented approximately 956 times [rats] and 289 times [rabbits] the systemic exposure observed in human females as a result of use of the MRHD of dapsone gel, 5%, based on AUC comparisons. These effects were probably secondary to maternal toxicity.

Dapsone was assessed for effects on perinatal/postnatal pup development and postnatal maternal behavior and function in a study in which dapsone was orally administered to female rats daily beginning on the seventh day of gestation and continuing until the twenty-seventh day postpartum. Maternal toxicity (decreased body weight and food consumption) and developmental effects (increase in stillborn pups and decreased pup weight) were seen at a dapsone dose of 30 mg/kg/day (approximately 382 times the systemic exposure that is associated with the MRHD of dapsone gel, 5%, based on AUC comparisons). No effects were observed on the viability, physical development, behavior, learning ability, or reproductive function of surviving pups.

8.2 Lactation

Risk Summary

There is no information regarding the presence of topical dapsone in breastmilk, the effects on the breastfed infant, or the effects on milk production. Orally administered dapsone appears in human milk and could result in hemolytic anemia and hyperbilirubinemia especially in infants with G6PD deficiency. Systemic absorption of dapsone following topical application is minimal relative to oral dapsone administration; however, it is known that dapsone is present in human milk following administration of oral dapsone.

8.4 Pediatric Use

Safety and efficacy was evaluated in 1169 children aged 12 to 17 years old treated with dapsone gel, 5%, in the clinical trials. The adverse event rate for dapsone gel, 5%, was similar to the vehicle control group. Safety and efficacy was not studied in pediatric patients less than 12 years of age, therefore dapsone gel, 5%, is not recommended for use in this age group.

8.5 Geriatric Use

Clinical trials of dapsone gel, 5%, did not include sufficient number of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects.

8.6 G6PD Deficiency

Dapsone gel, 5% and vehicle were evaluated in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over design clinical trial of 64 subjects with G6PD deficiency and acne vulgaris. Subjects were Black (88%), Asian (6%), Hispanic (2%) or of other racial origin (5%). Blood samples were taken at Baseline, Week 2, and Week 12 during both vehicle and dapsone gel, 5% treatment periods. There were 56 out of 64 subjects who had a Week 2 blood draw and applied at least 50% of treatment applications. Table 3 contains results from testing of relevant hematology parameters for these two treatment periods. Dapsone gel was associated with a 0.32 g/dL drop in hemoglobin after two weeks of treatment, but hemoglobin levels generally returned to baseline levels at Week 12.

Table 3 – Mean Hemoglobin, Bilirubin, and Reticulocyte Levels in Acne Subjects with G6PD Deficiency in Dapsone Gel/Vehicle Cross-Over Study
Dapsone Gel, 5% Vehicle
N Mean N Mean
Hemoglobin (g/dL) Pre-treatment 53 13.44 56 13.36
2 weeks 53 13.12 55 13.34
12 weeks 50 13.42 50 13.37
Bilirubin (mg/dL) Pre-treatment 54 0.58 56 0.55
2 weeks 53 0.65 55 0.56
12 weeks 50 0.61 50 0.62
Reticulocytes (%) Pre-treatment 53 1.30 55 1.34
2 weeks 53 1.51 55 1.34
12 weeks 50 1.48 50 1.41

There were no changes from baseline in haptoglobin or lactate dehydrogenase during dapsone gel or vehicle treatment at either the 2-week or 12-week time point.

The proportion of subjects who experienced decreases in hemoglobin ≥1 g/dL was similar between dapsone gel, 5% and vehicle treatment (8 of 58 subjects had such decreases during dapsone gel treatment compared to 7 of 56 subjects during vehicle treatment among subjects with at least one on-treatment hemoglobin assessment). Subgroups based on gender, race, or G6PD enzyme activity did not display any differences in laboratory results from the overall study group. There was no evidence of clinically significant hemolytic anemia in this study. Some of these subjects developed laboratory changes suggestive of hemolysis.

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