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Anthralin for Psoriasis

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
anthralinDrithocreme, Dritho-Scalp, Micanol

Anthralin comes as an ointment, a cream, or a stick. For short-term therapy, anthralin is applied to the skin or scalp for 20 to 60 minutes once a day, then washed or shampooed off.

Treatment usually starts with a product that contains a small amount of the medicine. The amount is increased every few days as long as your symptoms are improving and you are not having side effects. If a lower-dose product is used, it can be left on the skin longer (often overnight) and washed off in the morning.

Anthralin can be used in combination with coal tar and ultraviolet B (UVB) therapy (Ingram regimen). It can also be combined with corticosteroids or calcipotriene.

How It Works

Anthralin limits the growth of skin cells.

Why It Is Used

Anthralin is used to treat large, scaly patches of psoriasis on the arms, legs, or torso that have not cleared up with other treatment.

How Well It Works

Used alone, anthralin can be effective over a period of a few weeks.

Anthralin is likely to be effective in 2 to 3 weeks when combined with ultraviolet (UV) light therapy (the Ingram regimen).1

Side Effects

Side effects of anthralin include:

  • Irritation and discoloration of the skin that is not affected by psoriasis. (Take care to apply the product only to the skin affected by psoriasis, not to normal skin.)
  • A purple-brown stain on the skin. The discolored skin may go away within 3 weeks after you stop using the drug.
  • A deep red-brown color of the skin, which develops from the inflammation of psoriasis. It may take weeks or months to go away.
  • Gray hair that turns pink when anthralin is used on the scalp.

Newer forms of anthralin have made staining less of a problem.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Anthralin may permanently stain fabrics, showers, countertops, sinks, and other materials.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Citations

  1. Gudjonsson JE, Elder JT (2008). Psoriasis. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 1, pp. 169–193. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerAmy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
Last RevisedJanuary 9, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 09, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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