An Approach to Pruritus in Atopic Dermatitis: A Critical Systematic Review of theTacrolimus Ointment Literature

May 2010 | Volume 9 | Issue 5 | Original Article | 488 | Copyright © May 2010

Alan B. Fleischer Jr. MD and Mark Boguniewicz MD

Persistent pruritus, or itch, is one of the earliest symptoms of atopic dermatitis (AD). When pruritus is untreated, the incessant scratching response by the patient can increase the inflammatory response, resulting in aggravation of disease symptoms and severity, increasing flares and worsening patient quality of life. Therefore, it is essential that pruritus be treated effectively, rapidly and safely for optimal management of AD. In this article, the authors review clinical trials using tacrolimus ointment, a topical calcineurin inhibitor, to treat adult and pediatric patients with AD over a wide range of disease severity focusing on its efficacy in rapidly reducing pruritus. Furthermore, the authors evaluate trials in which tacrolimus ointment was directly compared with topical corticosteroids, the mainstay of AD treatment, and pimecrolimus cream, another topical calcineurin inhibitor, as well as long-term safety trials in which patients applied tacrolimus ointment for extended periods.