Efficacy of topical calcineurin inhibitors in vitiligo


  • Presented in part at the 86th Annual Meeting, Canadian Dermatology Association, 22–26 June 2011, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

  • Conflict of interest: Dr Lin has been a paid speaker for Astellas Pharma Canada Inc.

  • American trade names: tacrolimus: PROTOPIC; pimecrolimus: ELIDEL.


Dr Andrew N Lin, md, frcpc

2–104 Clinical Sciences Building

University of Alberta



Canada T6G 2G3

E-mail: anlin00@yahoo.com


Topical tacrolimus and pimecrolimus are indicated for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, but they have been studied in many off-label uses. We reviewed the English language literature to define their roles in treatment of vitiligo. Double-blind studies show that tacrolimus 0.1% ointment combined with excimer laser is superior to placebo, especially for UV resistant areas, such as bony prominences of the extremities. When used alone, tacrolimus 0.1% ointment is almost as effective as clobetasol propionate 0.05% ointment. Other studies suggest it can also be effective for facial lesions. Double blind studies show that pimecrolimus 1% cream combined with narrow band UVB is superior to placebo, especially for facial lesions. Additional studies would further clarify the role of topical calcineurin inhibitors in vitiligo.