Background: Long-term treatment for atopic dermatitis (AD) using low dose, intermittent, topical anti-inflammatory agents may control acute disease and prevent relapses. This 12-month, European, multicentre, randomized study investigated whether the proactive use of 0.1% tacrolimus ointment applied twice weekly can keep AD in remission and reduce the incidence of disease exacerbations (DE).
Methods: During the initial open-label period, 257 adults with AD applied 0.1% tacrolimus ointment twice daily (b.i.d.) for up to 6 weeks to affected areas. When an Investigator Global Assessment (IGA) score of ≤2 was achieved, the patient entered the disease control period (DCP) and was randomized to either proactive tacrolimus (n = 116) or vehicle ointment (n = 108) twice weekly for 12 months. Exacerbations were treated with 0.1% tacrolimus ointment b.i.d. until an IGA ≤2 was regained, then randomized treatment was restarted. The primary endpoint was the number of DEs during the DCP that required a substantial therapeutic intervention.
Results: Proactive tacrolimus 0.1% ointment application significantly reduced the number of DEs requiring substantial therapeutic intervention (median difference 2; P < 0.001; Wilcoxon rank sum test), the percentage of DE treatment days (median difference: 15.2%; P < 0.001; Wilcoxon rank sum test) and increased the time to first DE (median 142 vs 15 days; P < 0.001; stratified log-rank test). The adverse event profile was similar for the two treatment approaches.
Conclusion: A 12-month, twice weekly proactive tacrolimus ointment application was an effective treatment in most study patients which prevented, delayed and reduced the occurrence of AD exacerbations.