This study was designed to investigate a long-term therapeutic strategy for the management of recurring atopic dermatitis (AD) in adults using fluticasone propionate (FP) ointment (CutivateTM) whereby FP could help to prevent a relapse of AD once symptoms were under control. Adult patients with chronic, moderate to severe AD entered this multicentre study. All patients were initially treated with FP 0.005% (g/g) ointment in two different regimens. Patients whose AD had been completely healed by these treatments then entered a long-term treatment phase applying FP or placebo ointment once daily, two times per week for 16 weeks to ‘known’ healed lesions. By the end of the initial treatment period, mean SCORAD values had significantly (P < 0.0005) improved from baseline. Patients who entered the maintenance phase and were treated with intermittent FP for up to 16 weeks, demonstrated its superior efficacy (P = 0.018) over placebo, maintaining the improvements achieved after the initial treatment phase, reducing risk of relapse and delaying time to relapse (P = 0.013). No significant changes were detected in either treatment group in serum cortisol levels or in skin thickness measurements. Intermittent FP applied two times per week maintained a significant level of control, and delayed relapse of AD by comparison with placebo.