The role of topical calcineurin inhibitors in atopic dermatitis.Br J Dermatol 2004; 151 Suppl 70 Dec 2004:3-27BJ
For more than five decades, topical corticosteroids and emollients have been the mainstay of therapy for atopic dermatitis. However, the potential for side-effects limits the clinical utility of corticosteroids in providing long-term disease control. With a unique mode of action that differs from that of corticosteroids, the steroid-free topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs), tacrolimus ointment and pimecrolimus cream, provide skin-selective treatment that targets key factors involved in the pathogenesis of this chronic disease. An extensive series of clinical trials involving more than 16,000 patients with predominantly moderate to severe atopic dermatitis in tacrolimus studies and over 2000 patients with primarily mild to moderate disease in pimecrolimus studies has shown that both TCIs provide effective and well-tolerated treatment for atopic dermatitis. Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that tacrolimus is superior to conventional hydrocortisone-based regimens and does not cause skin atrophy or other steroidal side-effects. Both tacrolimus and pimecrolimus prevent disease flares and provide progressive and sustained disease improvement with long-term therapy. These and other clinical benefits of TCIs are discussed, together with the safety profiles of tacrolimus and pimecrolimus and their use in clinical practice. In addition, this review summarizes findings from the many trials carried out with these agents and outlines how TCIs can provide long-term treatment and control of a chronic skin disease that may persist for years.