Topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs) are widely used as an alternative to topical corticosteroids (TCSs) in treating of atopic dermatitis, but their risk versus benefit compared with TCSs remains unclear.
We performed a systematic review of the efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness of TCI compared with TCS and emollients.
Published meta-analysis, systematic reviews, and individual studies from January 2005 to January 2015 on the comparative efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness of TCI against emollients and TCS were included.
Tacrolimus is comparable to TCS in efficacy, safety profile, and cost-effectiveness. Pimecrolimus has a similar safety profile compared with TCS, emollients, and tacrolimus. It is superior to emollients but inferior to TCS and tacrolimus in efficacy and cost-effectiveness. The association of tacrolimus with malignancy remains uncertain.
Tacrolimus is an efficacious and cost-effective alternative to TCS, but its benefits need to be weighed against its still uncertain risk for malignancy. Pimecrolimus is appropriate for mild atopic dermatitis when TCS or tacrolimus is unsuitable.