It’s all vitamin B5 right? Well, not exactly. Pantothenic acid, typically found in the form of D-calcium pantothenate (basically all pantothenic acid includes some calcium), is the more common and basic form of vitamin B5 that you will typically find in supplements. One the other hand, Pantethine is the biologically-active form of B5 that is the direct precursor to Coenzyme A. Pantethine has already gone through the chemical reactions that prepare B5 for conversion into Co-A, and as such has a much higher rate of conversion upon entering the body (approximately twice the rate of standard pantothenic acid).
Since pantethine is more efficient at producing Co-A (which is needed to break down skin oil and prevent acne), why not just use it instead of pantothenic acid?
For one thing, there are some benefits to pantothenic acid that pantethine lacks, namely the enhanced circulation that aids in wound healing. However, the more important differences lie in the practical concerns of concentration and cost. Pantethine is very tricky to manufacture in high concentrations. At concentrations above 50%, pantethine is only stable in liquid form (this would require a gelcap), while in a powder form that could be used for tablets, the concentration drops to about 25%. That means that to get 250mg of pantethine, you might need to take a 500mg gelcap or a 1000mg pill (the highest concentration I’ve seen is an 80% liquid). Even if pantethine is twice as effective as pantothenic acid, you might still have to take twice as much. In contrast, pantothenic acid almost always has a concentration of about 92% in tablet form (with 8% calcium).
Then there’s the simple matter of cost. I’ve mentioned that pantethine is tricky to manufacture, and this shows up on the bottom line. On the production side, pantethine is anywhere from 5-7 times more expensive than pantothenic acid. Even if we absorb some of that cost, it still means charging a much higher price to our end consumers, something that neither of us like. So basically, unless pantethine becomes much cheaper to produce, it doesn’t make much sense to use it in our formula. We would have to switch from time-release to geltabs in order to even make the switch worthwhile, and there’s not enough evidence to suggest that these changes would really benefit our end users. Personally, I think some individuals would benefit from pantethine, simply because some people’s bodies are not as efficient at processing vitamins. However, for the vast majority of users pantothenic acid already works amazingly well. Better to stick with pantothenic acid, even if it means taking a few more pills, than pay three times as much for something that *might* give slightly more convenient results. Moreover, once you get past the initial higher intake period, most users can maintain acne-free skin on a low dose, so the benefit is really only temporary.