Clinical Edge Journal Scan

Commentary: Prevention in AD, December 2022

Dr. Silverberg scans the journals, so you don’t have to!

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Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…or is it?

We are in the golden age of atopic dermatitis (AD) drug development. We are fortunate to have numerous topicals, oral systemics, and biologics recently approved or in late-stage clinical development. Yet, we are still lacking effective strategies for primary prevention of incident AD and secondary prevention of AD exacerbations.

Kottner and colleagues published the results from the ADAPI study of 150 infants who were at an enhanced risk for AD. The children were randomly assigned to receive either a skincare regimen that was standardized or unstandardized skincare preferred by parents. They found that in the first year of life, the overall cumulative incidence rate of AD was similar between standardized skincare and skincare preferred by parents (P = .999).

Bradshaw and colleagues also published results from the BEEP study (a 5-year prospective study) of 1394 infants who were at high risk for AD. The children were randomly assigned to receive either emollient for the first year plus standard skincare or standard skincare alone. They found a similar proportion of children were clinically diagnosed with AD between 12 and 60 months in the emollient plus skincare group vs skincare alone group (31% vs 28%; adjusted relative risk 1.10; 95% CI 0.93-1.30). Unfortunately, the results from both studies are consistent with earlier results from BEEP, as well as other studies, and did not show that early application of emollients successfully prevent AD.

The use of applying emollients for primary prevention is unclear. However, proactive application of topical corticosteroids (TCS) and other topical nonsteroidal agents is well accepted in AD treatment guidelines for secondary prevention of AD exacerbations.1 Although, a recent study from Kamiya and colleagues suggested that proactive application of topical corticosteroids may not work as well as we think. They conducted an open-label, active-controlled, parallel-group study of 49 pediatric patients with moderate to severe AD who achieved remission with potent TCS. The children were then randomly assigned to receive proactive therapy with or discontinuation of TCS. The authors found no significant decrease in relapse rates with proactive vs no proactive treatment groups (8.33% vs 20.0%; P = .0859). I don't think these results will change our guidelines. But I do think these results raise important questions about the myriad aspects of proactive therapy that require appropriate counseling, including frequency of application per week (1-3 times), choice of therapies (corticosteroid or nonsteroidal agent), additional emollient use, bathing practice, etc. I personally would strongly recommend use of proactive therapy in clinical practice, but these results highlight that it is not a magic bullet for all patients either.

Additional Reference

  1. Boguniewicz M, Fonacier L, Guttman-Yassky E, et al. Atopic dermatitis yardstick: practical recommendations for an evolving therapeutic landscape. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2018;120:10-22.e2. Doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2017.10.039

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