Recalcitrant symptomatic vulvar lichen planus: response to topical tacrolimus

Julie A Byrd, Mark D P Davis, Roy S Rogers
Archives of Dermatology 2004, 140 (6): 715-20

BACKGROUND: Topical tacrolimus has been reported to be an effective treatment for genital lichen planus in small case series. We retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 16 patients with symptomatic vulvar lichen planus who received treatment with tacrolimus ointment.

OBSERVATIONS: All patients had symptomatic vulvar lichen planus recalcitrant to other treatments. Of 16 patients, 15 (94%) experienced a symptomatic response to tacrolimus treatment within 3 months (mean, 4.2 weeks) and had a partial or complete resolution of the lesions. Six patients (38%) reported mild adverse effects, including irritation, burning, and tingling. With continued use of the medication, these adverse effects resolved. When patients stopped treatment, lichen planus returned in 10 (83%) of 12 patients within 6 months after discontinuation of therapy (median, 1 week; range, 0.3-24 weeks), but in 6 patients the lesions were less severe than the lesions before treatment; all 10 patients resumed use of topical tacrolimus.

CONCLUSIONS: In this retrospective series of 16 women with vulvar lichen planus, topical tacrolimus therapy effectively controlled symptoms and improved lesions in all but 1 patient. The effect may be temporary, requiring continued use of tacrolimus, which appears to be safe and effective in controlling disease activity.

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