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Derm News: 2007.4(8)

An open-label, dose-ranging study of methotrexate for moderate-to-severe adult atopic eczema

British Journal of Dermatology 156 (2), 346-351.
S.C. Weatherhead, S. Wahie, N.J. Reynolds, S.J. Meggitt


Treatment options for moderate-to-severe atopic eczema are limited. Although methotrexate (MTX) is a widely used and effective treatment for psoriasis, there have been no previous prospective trials of its use in refractory atopic eczema, despite a few small, retrospective reports suggesting that it is a well-tolerated and effective treatment.


We have assessed the safety and efficacy of oral MTX in 12 adults with moderate-to-severe atopic eczema in an open-label, dose-ranging, prospective trial using objective outcome measures.


All patients had previously received other second-line therapies and had disease only partially responsive to potent topical steroids and emollients. During the 24-week MTX treatment period, unrestricted use of standard topical therapy was permitted. We used an incremental MTX dose regime, starting at 10 mg per week (following a 5-mg test dose) and increasing by 25 mg weekly until response was achieved or treatment was limited by toxicity. Disease activity [six area six sign atopic dermatitis (SASSAD) score] was assessed every 4 weeks during treatment and 12 weeks after stopping MTX. The primary endpoint was 24-week change in disease activity.


On average, disease activity improved by 52% from baseline (95% confidence interval 45-60%). There were significant improvements in quality of life, body surface area affected and loss of sleep and itch scores. Global response was rated as 'marked improvement' in five of 12 and six of 12 patients, by investigators and patients, respectively. In all patients, the majority of improvement in disease activity was seen by week 12, and, interestingly, patients who had not responded well over this period despite reaching a dose of 15 mg weekly failed to improve with further dose escalation. Only one patient withdrew due to minor adverse effects. MTX was well tolerated by the remaining 11 patients, all of whom completed treatment, achieving a median dose of 15 mg weekly. Importantly, eight of nine patients had a persistent improvement 12 weeks after stopping MTX, with mean disease activity remaining 34% below baseline.


We have shown that MTX is an effective, well-tolerated treatment for moderate-to-severe atopic eczema, and response appears to compare favourably with other second-line therapies. A randomized, controlled trial is now warranted.

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The Derm News service provided by the Editorial Consultants of Skin Therapy Letter© and its founding editor Dr. Stuart Maddin.