If disease control is insufficient with topical therapy, it’s appropriate to engage in shared decision-making with the patient regarding systemic treatment. She needs to understand up front that the worldwide overall background stillbirth rate in the general population is about 3%, and that severe congenital malformations are present in up to 6% of all live births.
“You need to inform them that they can have systemic therapy and give birth to a child with congenital defects which have nothing to do with the medication,” noted Dr. Vestergaard.
That said, the task force recommends cyclosporine as the off-label, first-line systemic therapy in pregnancy and lactation when long-term treatment is required. This guidance is based largely upon reassuring evidence in solid organ transplant recipients.
The recommended second-line therapy is systemic corticosteroids, but it’s a qualified recommendation. Dr. Vestergaard and colleagues find that systemic corticosteroid therapy is only rarely needed in pregnant AD patients, and the task force recommendation is to limit the use to less than 2-3 weeks and no more than 0.5 mg/kg per day of prednisone. Dexamethasone is not recommended.
Azathioprine should not be started in pregnancy, according to the task force, but when no other options are available, it may be continued in women already on the drug, albeit at half of the prepregnancy dose.
Dupilumab () is to be avoided in pregnant women with AD until more clinical experience becomes available.
Treatment of prospective fathers with AD
The European task force recommends that topical therapies can be prescribed in prospective fathers without any special concerns. The same is true for systemic corticosteroids. Methotrexate should be halted 3 months before planned pregnancy, as is the case for mycophenolate mofetil (CellCept). Azathioprine is recommended when other options have failed. Cyclosporine is deemed a reasonable option in the treatment of men with severe AD at the time of conception if other treatments have failed; of note, neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the European regulatory agency have issued contraindications for the use of the drug in men who wish to become fathers.
Mycophenolate mofetil carries a theoretical risk of teratogenicity. The European task force recommends that men should use condoms while on the drug and for at least 90 days afterward.
Unplanned pregnancy in women on systemic therapy
The recommended course of action is to immediately stop systemic therapy, intensify appropriate topical therapy in anticipation of worsening AD, and refer the patient to an obstetrician and a teratology information center for an individualized risk assessment. Methotrexate and mycophenolate mofetil are known teratogens.
The full 16-page task force position paper was published shortly before EADV 2019 ().
The report was developed without commercial sponsorship. Dr. Vestergaard indicated he has received research grants from and/or serves as a consultant to eight pharmaceutical companies.