Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2009 Sep;146(1):22-9. Epub 2009 Jul 23.
Topical calcineurin inhibitors for the treatment of vulvar dermatoses.
Goldstein AT, Thaçi D, Luger T.
Repeated courses of potent topical corticosteroids and maintenance therapy with moderately potent topical corticosteroids are frequently needed to treat various forms of vulvar dermatoses, which are often characterized by an abnormal proliferation or activation of T lymphocytes. Because such therapeutic regimen is associated with an increased risk of potential side effects, particularly skin atrophy, an anti-inflammatory alternative to topical corticosteroids is desirable. The two non-steroid topical calcineurin inhibitors pimecrolimus and tacrolimus are immunomodulators that block the release of inflammatory cytokines from T lymphocytes in the skin while promoting cutaneous innate host defences. They are currently approved in Europe and in the United States of America as second-line anti-inflammatory agents for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. We provide a comprehensive summary of existing case reports, series of cases, and open-label prospective studies concerning the use of topical pimecrolimus and tacrolimus for the treatment of anogenital lichen sclerosus, genital lichen planus, vulvar lichen simplex chronicus and related pruritic vulvar dermatoses (chronic vulvar pruritus and allergic contact dermatitis of the vulva). The available data suggest that both topical calcineurin inhibitors may be effective and well tolerated in these vulvar dermatoses, although topical pimecrolimus may exhibit a better long-term tolerability profile. Being devoid of steroid-related side effects, they may represent a useful second-line therapeutic option for patients who are intolerant of, or resistant to topical corticosteroids. Controlled clinical trials and comparative studies are warranted to substantiate the promising findings summarized in this review.