Atopic dermatitis is a common health problem that affects 15 million people in the United States. It usually begins in infancy, affecting 10% to 17% of children. Atopic dermatitis will improve in approximately50% of these children by the time they are between 5 and 15 years of age. Other children will have some form of the disease throughout their lives.
Atopic dermatitis is a pruritic, inflammatory skin disorder that is characterized by itching, eczema with lesions, dry skin, thickening of the skin, and increase in skin markings. The disease often has a remitting/flaring nature that can be made worse by social, environmental, and biologic triggers.
The goal of treatment is to prevent flares. This will decrease the physical discomfort of the disease, the itching and scratching of the skin that leads to skin damage, and the social embarrassment associated with skin lesions. Current treatments consist of both oral and topical preparations, including antihistamines, steroids, immunosuppressive agents, emollients, and calcineurin inhibitors. However, issues of effectiveness, cost, and side effect profiles limit the use of these medications.
The ideal medication for the treatment of atopic dermatitis would be safe and effective for use in both children and adults with no side effects. The long-term safety of last two US Food and Drug Administration approved medications, tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel), has been questioned by reports of malignancies in children. There is a need for an effective and well-tolerated topical treatment for patients with atopic dermatitis. Relieva (Apollo PharmaceuticalInc., Oldsmar FL) topical cream (a homeopathic product) appears to be a good alternative treatment.