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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



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.