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Research Reveals New Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis

Posted: March 24, 2009

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Used to diminish the skin’s inflammatory response, topical corticosteroids are a mainstay in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Now, newer formulations of topical corticosteroids in gels, foams and oils, which have undergone specific safety and efficacy testing, have been approved for use in younger patients, including infants as young as three months of age. The products that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for this age group to treat atopic dermatitis and eczema include fluocinolone acetonide, topical oil 0.01%, desonide gel 0.05% and desonide foam 0.05%.

Dr. Eichenfield noted that some patients have expressed concern about the cost of treatments. Because major pharmacy retailers are promoting generic drug programs, patients may find a more cost-effective therapy for managing chronic atopic dermatitis. “The newer approved formulations may cost more compared to the generic medications, so it is important for patients to discuss generic options with their dermatologist,” said Dr. Eichenfield.

Topical calcineurin inhibitors

Another category of atopic dermatitis therapies used to suppress inflammation of the skin is topical calcineurin inhibitors, which includes the FDA-approved tacrolimus ointment and pimecrolimus cream. Recently, several new studies have examined whether the intermittent use of topical calcineurin inhibitors can effectively control atopic dermatitis. In patients whose atopic dermatitis was initially controlled with the application of topical corticosteroids or tacrolimus ointment, applying topical calcineurin inhibitors intermittently was effective in maintaining control of flare-ups.

“Studies have shown that topical calcineurin inhibitors can be very helpful in a variety of atopic dermatitis treatment regimens,” said Dr. Eichenfield. “For instance, these recent studies demonstrate that applying topical tacrolimus ointment two to three times per week successfully controlled the condition for months, on average, before a significant flare of dermatitis. Other studies show using tacrolimus ointment or pimecrolimus cream intermittently at the first signs and symptoms of a flare-up was quite successful. These products may be especially useful for patients who otherwise would have more persistent or frequent recurring eczema.”