A systematic review of tacrolimus ointment compared with corticosteroids in the treatment of atopic dermatitis.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Abstract Objective: A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to determine the efficacy and tolerability of tacrolimus ointment for the treatment of atopic dermatitis (AD) compared with topical corticosteroids. Methods: Electronic searches were performed in Medline, Embase and the Cochrane Library, as well as relevant conference proceedings. Two researchers independently selected trials investigating the efficacy and/or safety of tacrolimus ointment in the treatment of AD. No language restrictions were applied. Relevant outcome data from included trials were extracted by two independent reviewers. Direct meta-analysis to calculate relative risks (RR) (95% confidence intervals (CIs)) was conducted on dichotomous efficacy/safety outcomes of interest. Results: Seventeen trials comparing tacrolimus ointment with topical corticosteroids in both paediatric (n = 2328) and adult (n = 2849) patients were identified. No studies comparing tacrolimus ointment with class IV topical corticosteroids were identified. Tacrolimus 0.1% ointment was found to be of similar efficacy to class I/II and class III topical corticosteroids. In three individual trials (comparing tacrolimus 0.1% ointment to a topical corticosteroid), evaluation of the Physician's Global Evaluation of Clinical Response (PGECR) resulted in RRs of 0.95 (95% CI 0.78-1.16), 3.09 (95% CI 2.14-4.45) and 1.35 (95% CI 0.86-2.12), where values above one favour tacrolimus ointment. With the exception that tacrolimus ointment caused more skin burning than comparator treatments (tacrolimus 0.03% versus a class III topical corticosteroid, the RR was 3.00 (95% CI 1.21-7.43) in favour of the corticosteroid), no significant differences with regards to side-effects and withdrawals due to AEs were found. Quality of life data were reported in two studies. While one study reported greater improvements in tacrolimus-treated adult patients compared with topical steroids, the second reported greater improvements in paediatric patients treated with steroids compared with tacrolimus ointment. Conclusions: The current review and meta-analysis showed tacrolimus ointment to be of similar efficacy to corticosteroids. The interpretation of available data is limited by heterogeneity in outcome measures between trials. Further trials are needed to assess the impact of treatments on patient reported outcomes.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Dermatology and Venereal Diseases
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1395-1406
JournalCurrent Medical Research and Opinion
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Department of Dermatology and Venerology (013241320), Occupational and Environmental Dermatology Unit (013241310)