A randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, split-face study with pimecrolimus cream 1% for papulopustular rosacea

A A Karabulut, B Izol Serel, H M Eksioglu
Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: JEADV 2008, 22 (6): 729-34

BACKGROUND: Rosacea is a common inflammatory skin disorder for which the pathogenesis is unclear. Currently, there is no cure for rosacea, and it seems that standard therapies have focused mainly on minimizing inflammation.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study is to investigate the potential efficacy, tolerability and safety profile of 1% pimecrolimus cream for the treatment of rosacea.

METHODS: Twenty-five patients with papulopustular rosacea were enrolled to a randomized, single-blinded, placebo-controlled, split-face trial of pimecrolimus cream 1% consisting 4 week treatment and 2 week follow-up period. The patients were instructed to apply first the 'left side cream' labelled placebo cream (Ultrabase cream, Intendis GmbH, Berlin, Germany) to the left hemi-face then the 'right side cream' labelled 1% pimecrolimus cream (Elidel; Novartis Pharma, Nuremberg, Germany) to the right hemi-face, twice daily. They were informed to apply a standard amount of each cream with the fingertip-unit and not allowed to use any other agent concomittantly other than sunblock. Clinical evaluation and subjective severity assessment were obtained along with photographic documentation at baseline, first, second, and fourth weeks of the therapy and at the follow-up visit. Rosacea severity score for each sign of erythema, papules, pustules, oedema, and telengiectesia were graded from 0 to 3. Patients were questioned for the subjective symptoms, overall improvement on appearance and side-effects.

RESULTS: Twenty-four patients completed the study with an exceptional compliance and tolerable safety profile. One patient withdrew from the study due to severe flare-up reaction affecting both hemi-faces. The mean baseline total rosacea severity scores were 5.06 + 1.29 for both sides and reduced to 2.5 +/- 1.06 vs. 3.25 +/- 1.24 on pimecrolimus vs. placebo applied sides without the significance (P = 0.06). There was not any significant difference concerning each rosacea sign scores and total rosacea severity scores except for the significant improvement in erythema score and total rosacea severity score obtained on the pimecrolimus-applied hemi-face at 2nd week of therapy (P =0.01 and P = 0.03, respectively). The reduction rates of the mean subjective severity scores at 4th week were 49.77% vs. 38.89% for pimecrolimus vs. placebo, respectively, without a statistical significance (P = 0.15). Subjective symptoms responded well in 54.16% of patients concerning pimecrolimus application compared with 12.50% for the placebo application. The side-effects were mostly transient local irritations.

CONCLUSION: Our data implicated that pimecrolimus cream is not superior to placebo except for its efficacy on erythema. We believe that pimecrolimus cream can be a treatment option for rosacea patients with high erythema score for whom an initial accelerated improvement is needed. We believe further studies with topical pimecrolimus cream on larger study groups with different subtypes and severity of rosacea will clarify the potential effect of pimecrolimus cream for the treatment of rosacea.

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