South African Family Practice

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Atopic dermatitis: tacrolimus vs. topical corticosteroid use

Y Langa, E Van der Merwe


Atopic dermatitis (AD), the dermatological manifestation of the atopic diathesis, has a variety of clinical presentations. It is a chronic and relapsing inflammatory disorder, requiring a multifaceted treatment approach. Topical corticosteroids are the backbone of therapy. However, concerns over adverse drug reactions associated with their long-term application limit their use. Tacrolimus, on the other hand, has been shown to be effective in stabilising the symptoms of AD in the long-term setting, without the side-effects that hamper the use of topical corticosteroids. Long-term safety data up to ten years are available in the literature. Despite this, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) black box warning of possible malignancies has resulted in much debate among experts. The main focus of this article is to compare the safety and efficacy of topical corticosteroids to calcineurin inhibitors, particularly tacrolimus. Furthermore, the aim is to evaluate the place of tacrolimus in AD therapy. A brief overview of the condition and other treatment modalities will also be discussed.

Keywords: atopic dermatitis, tacroliums, topical corticosteroid use
AJOL African Journals Online