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Drug May Prove a New Weapon Against Psoriasis

Anti-inflammatory pimecrolimus performs well in trial

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 20, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A new anti-inflammatory drug may help treat people suffering from a certain type of psoriasis, a new German study suggests.

Reporting in the September issue of the Archives of Dermatology, researchers from Ruhr University in Bochum, and their colleagues studied the effects of four treatments -- 1 percent pimecrolimus (a new, steroid-free anti-inflammatory drug), 0.005 percent calcipotriol (a nonsteroidal treatment), 0.1 percent betamethasone (a topical corticosteroid) and a placebo cream -- in 80 people who had been diagnosed with "intertriginous" psoriasis.

Intertriginous psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease that affects the skin folds of the underarms, breasts, groin, buttocks and genitals. It is usually treated with topical corticosteroids, but the medications may have adverse effects when used for long periods.

The researchers found that after four weeks of treatment, all four creams -- even the placebo -- resulted in significant decreases in the severity of psoriasis.

The 0.1 percent betamethasone was significantly more effective than the 1 percent pimecrolimus. Pimecrolimus was associated with an increase in itching and burning shortly after application, but most of these reactions lasted less than 30 minutes and resolved in a few days.

The study's authors concluded that since betamethasone was more effective than pimecrolimus, topical corticosteroids are still the most effective treatment for intertriginous psoriasis. But, they suggest, a short-term application of topical steroids followed with treatment by a less potent agent, such as pimecrolimus or calcipotriol, may help avoid the long-term effects of corticosteroid use.

This study was supported by a financial grant from Novartis Pharma GmbH, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures pimecrolimus.

More information

The American Academy of Dermatology has more about psoriasis.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Sept. 18, 2006
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