Conference Coverage

Dupilumab for severe AD: Expert advocates continuous treatment



Most patients on dupilumab for the treatment of severe atopic dermatitis respond best on continuous long-term dosing of the selective Th2 cytokine inhibitor rather than treatment on an as-needed basis, Andrew Blauvelt, MD, advised at the Hawaii Dermatology Seminar provided by Global Academy for Medical Education/Skin Disease Education Foundation.

Dr. Andrew Blauvelt, a dermatologist and president of the Oregon Medical Research Center, Portland. Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Dr. Andrew Blauvelt

“I view atopic dermatitis as a chronic disease requiring chronic treatment. So be very careful about stopping. We know that if you start and stop biologics you’re going to be far more prone to develop antidrug antibodies resulting in drug resistance than with continual dosing,” said Dr. Blauvelt, a dermatologist and clinical trialist who is president of the Oregon Medical Research Center, Portland.

He said dupilumab (Dupixent) seldom induces disease remission as defined by clear skin while off all drugs for at least 1 year, although he has a few patients who seem to be exceptions. Yet clearly dupilumab doesn’t change an individual’s predisposing genetics or environmental allergen exposure pattern, so it’s best to think of it as a treatment for the long haul.

Dr. Blauvelt considers dupilumab far and away the best medication for treatment of adults and teenagers whose atopic dermatitis (AD) is uncontrolled with topical therapy. Payers often balk at authorizing dupilumab unless a patient has first undergone an unsuccessful trial of cyclosporine or methotrexate, which are far less expensive. But that’s not what the expert consensus guidelines recommend (Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2018 Jan;120[1]:10-22.e2).

“The guidelines don’t suggest that failure on methotrexate or cyclosporine should be a prerequisite for dupilumab. So if you’re having problems with an insurance company and you really want to use dupilumab, you can point to this paper and say, ‘Look, the experts do not recommend step therapy, we can go directly to dupilumab.’ And the dupilumab label says simply that failure of topical therapy is required before being allowed to use dupilumab. So both the label and the experts say you don’t have to go through a bunch of steps in order to get to what I consider the very best drug for our patients,” he explained.

Both cyclosporine and methotrexate are far more broadly immunosuppressive and hence less safe than dupilumab. Both require laboratory monitoring. In contrast, blood work isn’t required in patients on dupilumab; in fact, Dr. Blauvelt considers it an unwise use of resources. Nor is tuberculosis testing advised prior to starting dupilumab.

When he can’t get authorization for dupilumab, Dr. Blauvelt’s go-to drug is methotrexate at 15-25 mg/week. It’s not as effective as cyclosporine for rapid clearing, but it’s safer for long-term use.

“Methotrexate is the devil we know – we know how to use it, and we know how to monitor for it,” he commented, adding that he reserves cyclosporine for a maximum of a month or 2 of acute crisis management, or as a bridge in getting patients off of systemic corticosteroids.


Next Article: