Background Although cyclosporin (CyA) has been in use in psoriasis for more than 20 years, there is still controversy regarding treatment strategy, monitoring of kidney function and utility in non-plaque psoriasis.
Objectives To prepare for evidence-based recommendations concerning the practical use of CyA in psoriasis, we performed a systematic review to better define treatment strategy, risk of kidney toxicity and evidence for use in non-plaque psoriasis.
Methods A systematic search was performed on PubMed, Cochrane and Embase databases, using the key-words ‘psoriasis’, ‘CyA’, ‘nephrotoxicity’ during the period from 1980 to June 2010.
Results The initial literature search identified 428 articles. The final selection included 16 randomized controlled trials (RCT) for treatment strategy, 25 articles (histological studies and RCT) for risk of kidney toxicity and 10 articles (RCT, prospective studies and case series) for use in non-plaque psoriasis. Higher doses of CyA of 5 mg/kg produced Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI) 75 response in between 50 and 97% of patients, whereas lower doses of 2.5 mg/kg yielded PASI 75 in between 28 and 85%. CyA could maintain remission at doses of at least 3 mg/kg/day. Low calory diet in obese patients was shown to improve CyA efficacy. More than 50% of the patients treated with CyA may have an increase in serum creatinin value over 30% of baseline if treatment is prolonged for 2 years. CyA at a dose of 2.5 mg/kg/day was effective for 89% of patients with palmoplantar pustulosis. More than 50% of the patients with erythrodermic psoriasis obtained a significant improvement at doses between 3 and 5 mg/kg/day at 2–4 months. CyA was more effective than etretinate on nail psoriasis.
Conclusion Oral CyA is indicated for patients with plaque psoriasis, pustular psoriasis or erythrodermic psoriasis. The starting dose of 5 mg/kg is associated with a higher degree of clearance. The benefit-risk appears to be better for patients without risk factors for nephrotoxicity: non-obese patients without hypertension and aged below 60. Although CyA is ideally suited for crisis intervention, continuous maintenance treatment with CyA may be envisaged in some patients provided serum creatinin is regularly monitored and the cumulative treatment duration is preferably limited to 2 years or less.