Background α-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) is a melanocortin peptide that increases skin pigmentation during ultraviolet light-mediated tanning. As α-MSH has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory effects, we assessed the clinical potential of a superpotent α-MSH analogue, afamelanotide (Nle4-d-Phe7-α-MSH), in patients with acne vulgaris, the most common inflammatory skin disorder.
Methods Afamelanotide (16 mg) was given in a phase II open-label pilot study subcutaneously as a sustained-release resorbable implant formulation to 3 patients with mild-to-moderate facial acne vulgaris. Evaluation included lesion count, adverse effects and patient-reported outcome. Monitoring of laboratory parameters included differential blood counts, electrolytes, urine analysis, and liver and kidney function tests. Skin melanin density was measured by reflectance spectrophotometry.
Results The total number as well as the number of inflammatory acne lesions declined in all patients 56 days after the first injection of afamelanotide. Life quality as measured by Dermatology Life Quality Index likewise improved in all 3 patients 56 days after the first injection of afamelanotide. There were no adverse effects except mild and short-term fatigue in one patient. All patients experienced increased pigmentation especially on the face. Clinically relevant changes in laboratory parameters were not detected.
Conclusions Afamelanotide appears to have anti-inflammatory effects in patients with mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris. Future trials are needed to confirm the anti-inflammatory action of this melanocortin analogue in patients with acne vulgaris.