Background The relapsing nature of atopic dermatitis (AD) presents a challenge for its long-term treatment. Efficacy and safety of corticosteroids have been proven in the acute treatment of active AD, but their long-term efficacy and potential to reduce or prevent relapses have only partially been addressed.
Objectives To investigate long-term management (16 weeks) of AD with methylprednisolone aceponate (MPA) 0·1% cream twice weekly in addition to an emollient (Advabase®) after stabilization of an acute severe or very severe flare of AD with MPA cream.
Methods Patients ≥ 12 years of age with a ≥ 2-year history of moderate to severe AD were eligible for this multicentre, randomized, double-blind, controlled study if they presented with an acute flare of severe or very severe AD [Investigator’s Global Assessment (IGA) score ≥ 4]. After successful treatment of the flare in an acute phase (AP), patients received either MPA twice weekly plus emollient or emollient alone over a 16-week maintenance phase (MP). The primary study endpoint was time to relapse of AD. Secondary endpoints included relapse rate and disease status, the patient’s assessment of intensity of itch, the Eczema Area and Severity Index, the IGA score, affected body surface area, Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) and children’s DLQI (CDLQI), patient’s and investigator’s global assessment of response and patient’s assessment of quality of sleep.
Results Two hundred and forty-nine patients entered the AP and 221 continued into the MP. Time to relapse was longer in the MPA group than in the emollient group. The probability of remaining free from relapse after 16 weeks was 87·1% in the MPA group compared with 65·8% for the emollient. Patients treated with MPA twice weekly had a 3·5-fold lower risk of experiencing a relapse than patients treated with emollient alone (hazard ratio 3·5, 95% confidence interval 1·9–6·4; P < 0·0001). MPA was also superior to emollient for all other efficacy endpoints. Therapy with both treatments was well tolerated.
Conclusions MPA twice weekly plus an emollient provides an effective maintenance treatment regimen to control AD. Once stabilized, treatment with MPA significantly reduces the risk of relapse and the intensity of itching, and improves the overall patient status.