New Treatment Delays Eczema Flare-Ups

Adding Drug to Regular Moisture Therapy Lengthens Time Between Relapses

From the WebMD Archives

June 19, 2003 -- A new approach in eczema treatment can help prevent the unpredictable flare-ups of red, itchy skin that plague people with the condition. A new study shows that adding twice-weekly treatment with Cutivate to daily moisturizer use can delay eczema relapses for up to 16 weeks in people with moderate to severe eczema.

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that affects about 3% of all adults and children in the U.S. and causes the skin to become dry, itchy, and often scaly. For adults with the most common form of eczema, known as atopic dermatitis, flare-ups of the disease often occur without warning.

Treatment usually involves applying a potent topical corticosteroid to the affected areas, followed by either daily moisture therapy or use of a lower-dose corticosteriod between flare-ups. But researchers say there is little evidence to support either of these eczema treatment approaches in preventing or delaying relapses of eczema.

In this study, researchers examined the effectiveness of using a potent corticosteroid cream, Cutivate, twice a week in addition to daily moisture therapy in preventing eczema flare-ups. A group of 376 adults with moderate to severe eczema who were experiencing a relapse of their condition were recruited from 39 dermatology clinics across Europe to participate in the study.

The patients were first treated with Cutivate either in a cream or ointment preparation once or twice a day to stabilize their eczema. After the flare-up was brought under control, 295 patients were then divided into groups and instructed to apply the same preparation or a placebo twice a week in addition to daily use of a moisturizer or bath oil as needed as a maintenance treatment.

After 16 weeks, researchers found that patients who used the Cutivate cream were nearly six times less likely to experience a relapse of eczema compared with those who used the placebo. Those who used the Cutivate ointment were nearly half as likely to suffer a flare-up of their condition.

The study showed that the average time before a relapse was about six weeks among those using the placebo, but the average time between flare-ups among those using Cutivate was more than 16 weeks, the duration of the study. More patients using the Cutivate ointment rather than the cream experienced a relapse by 16 weeks.


Researcher John Berth-Jones, of the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire in England, and colleagues say the treatment was well tolerated and there was a low risk of side effects.

The results are especially promising because they also address concerns about long-term exposure to steroids. This eczema treatment may reduce the need for high-dose steroids. But more research is needed to determine if lower-dose steroids used in a similar manner might also be an effective maintenance strategy in eczema treatment.

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SOURCES: British Medical Journal, June 20, 2003. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Eczema."
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