When it comes to treating atopic dermatitis (AD) in adults with topical therapies, new guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) rate the existing evidence as “strong” for prescription moisturizers, topical calcineurin inhibitors, topical corticosteroids, and topical phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE-4) and Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. The guidelines also conditionally recommend the use of bathing and wet wrap therapy but recommend against the use of topical antimicrobials, antiseptics, and antihistamines.
The development updates the AAD’s 2014 recommendations for managing AD with topical therapies, published almost 9 years ago. “At that time, the only US FDA-approved systemic medication for atopic dermatitis was prednisone — universally felt amongst dermatologists to be the least appropriate systemic medication for this condition, at least chronically,” Robert Sidbury, MD, MPH, who cochaired a 14-member multidisciplinary work group that assembled the updated guidelines, told this news organization in an interview.
“Since 2017, there have been two different biologic medications approved for moderate to severe AD (dupilumab and tralokinumab) with certainly a third or more right around the corner. There have been two new oral agents approved for moderate to severe AD — upadacitinib and abrocitinib — with others on the way,” he noted. While these are not topical therapies, the purview of the newly released guidelines, he said, “there have also been new topical medications approved since that time (crisaborole and ruxolitinib). It was high time for an update.”
For the new guidelines, which were published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Sidbury, chief of the division of dermatology at Seattle Children’s Hospital, guidelines cochair Dawn M. R. Davis, MD, a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and colleagues conducted a systematic review of evidence regarding the use of nonprescription topical agents such as moisturizers, bathing practices, and wet wraps, as well as topical pharmacologic modalities such as corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors, JAK inhibitors, PDE-4 inhibitors, antimicrobials, and antihistamines.
Next, the work group applied the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach for assessing the certainty of the evidence and formulating and grading clinical recommendations based on relevant randomized trials in the medical literature.
Of the 12 recommendations made for adults with AD, the work group ranked 7 as “strong” based on the evidence reviewed, and the rest as “conditional.” The “strong” recommendations include the use of moisturizers; the use of tacrolimus 0.03% or 0.1%; the use of pimecrolimus 1% cream for mild to moderate AD; use of topical steroids; intermittent use of medium-potency topical corticosteroids as maintenance therapy to reduce flares and relapse; the use of the topical PDE-4 inhibitor crisaborole, and the use of the topical JAK inhibitor ruxolitinib.
Regarding ruxolitinib cream 1.5%, the work group advised that the treatment area “should not exceed 20% body surface area, and a maximum of 60 grams should be applied per week; these stipulations are aimed at reducing systemic absorption, as black box warnings include serious infections, mortality, malignancies (for example, lymphoma), major adverse cardiovascular events, and thrombosis.”
Conditional recommendations in the guidelines include those for bathing for treatment and maintenance and the use of wet dressings, and those against the use of topical antimicrobials, topical antihistamines, and topical antiseptics.
According to Dr. Sidbury, the topic of bathing generated robust discussion among the work group members. “Though [each group member] has strong opinions and individual practice styles, they were also able to recognize that the evidence is all that matters in a project like this, which led to a ‘conditional’ recommendation regarding bathing frequency backed by ‘low’ evidence,” he said. “While this may seem like ‘guidance’ that doesn’t ‘guide,’ I would argue it informs the guideline consumer exactly where we are in terms of this question and allows them to use their best judgment and experience as their true north here.”
In the realm of topical steroids, Dr. Sidbury said that topical steroid addiction (TSA) and topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) have been a “controversial but persistent concern” from some patients and providers. “Two systematic reviews of this topic were mentioned, and it was made clear that the evidence base [for the concepts] is weak,” he said. “With that important caveat ,the guideline committee delineated both a definition of TSW/TSA and potential risk factors.”
Dr. Sidbury marveled at the potential impact of newer medicines such as crisaborole and ruxolitinib on younger AD patients as well. Crisaborole is now Food and Drug Administration approved down to 3 months of age for mild to moderate AD. “This is extraordinary and expands treatment options for all providers at an age when parents and providers are most conservative in their practice,” he said. “Ruxolitinib, also nonsteroidal, is FDA approved for mild to moderate AD down to 12 years of age. Having spent a good percentage of my practice years either being able to offer only topical steroids, or later topical steroids and topical calcineurin inhibitors like tacrolimus or pimecrolimus, having additional options is wonderful.”
In the guidelines, the work group noted that “significant gaps remain” in current understanding of various topical AD therapies. “Studies are needed which examine quality of life and other patient-important outcomes, changes to the cutaneous microbiome, as well as long term follow-up, and use in special and diverse populations (e.g., pregnancy, lactation, immunosuppression, multiple comorbidities, skin of color, pediatric),” they wrote. “Furthermore, increased use of new systemic AD treatment options (dupilumab, tralokinumab, abrocitinib, upadacitinib) in patients with moderate to severe disease may result in a selection bias toward milder disease in current and future AD topical therapy studies.”
Use of topical therapies to manage AD in pediatric patients will be covered in a forthcoming AAD guideline. The first updated AD guideline, on comorbidities associated with AD in adults, was released in January 2022.
Dr. Sidbury reported that he serves as an advisory board member for Pfizer, a principal investigator for Regeneron, an investigator for Brickell Biotech and Galderma USA, and a consultant for Galderma Global and Microes. Other work group members reported having financial disclosures with many pharmaceutical companies.
J Am Acad Dermatol. Published online January 11, 2023. Full text
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.